Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Boumsong Focused on Big Game

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Boumsong Focused on Big Game

Article excerpt

Byline: By Stuart Rayner

Jean-Alain Boumsong might be new to Tyne-Wear football, but even after just half a season in Glasgow, he knows a thing or two about derby passions, writes Stuart Rayner

This week Jean-Alain Boumsong was at La Sagesse School encouraging children to learn French. But, as he prepares to take part in a Newcastle United v Sunderland game for the first time, Boumsong is already well versed in the passion of a British derby, having completed a crash-course at the toughest school of all.

Rather than be intimidated by arguably world football's most intense derby, though, Boumsong relished the experience and consequently cannot wait for 1.30pm on Sunday, when the Magpies take on Sunderland at St James's Park.

Boumsong's spell as a Rangers player was short-lived, the centre-back spending just six months at Ibrox before his pounds 8m move to Newcastle. Such is the nature of Scottish football, however, he managed to cram three Old Firm matches into that time.

Although Boumsong's Old Firm record was mixed ( won two, lost one ( he says playing in those matches gave him a buzz he has never before experienced in the game.

"The atmosphere was electric," he recalls. "Before the games there was a lot of pressure around the club and around the players."

With the sectarian bigotry which unfortunately accompanies it and the knowledge that what happens in these matches will invariably decide the destination of each of the major Scottish trophies, there is no shortage of pressure when Rangers meet Celtic. That, according to the Frenchman, is why he enjoyed them so much.

"When it is pressure in a good way it is good for football players," he argues.

"When you're a little bit ambitious you enjoy the pressure. It does make you improve your football." Boumsong had played in derbies before, albeit in the relatively sleepy backwater of French football.

The 25-year-old French international had also appeared at the top of European football ( in the Champions League and European Championships ( but admits nothing could prepare him for an Old Firm game.

"I've never seen that kind of atmosphere before and I'm really proud to have played in that kind of game," he said. …

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