Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

How I Sold the North East to My Mate; Yohan Cabaye Was a Pioneer of Newcastle United's French Revolution. He Tells Chief Sports Writer Mark Douglas about Helping Turn the Toon Red, White and Blue

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

How I Sold the North East to My Mate; Yohan Cabaye Was a Pioneer of Newcastle United's French Revolution. He Tells Chief Sports Writer Mark Douglas about Helping Turn the Toon Red, White and Blue

Article excerpt

WITH his woolly hat pulled low over a brow that is furrowed with signs of fatigue from the previous night's Europa League exertions, the fresh-faced Yohan Cabaye does not look much like your typical revolutionary.

A devout Roman Catholic who devotes himself to football and family (his three-year old daughter Myla has recently started nursery), the furthest he has gone in pursuit of cheap thrills since joining Newcastle United in the summer of 2011 is an unsolicited trip to Whitley Bay that ended with shuttle runs across a chilly beach.

But scratch beneath the surface of a 27-year-old who spends weeknights studying the best footballers in the world on the "endless" sports channels he finds on his satellite TV and you discover one of the main architects of Newcastle United's French revolution. He may not have the contacts of a Graham Carr or the silver tongue of Alan Pardew but it is Cabaye's testimonials that have provided the foundation of this new-look Newcastle team.

Consider this. The venue is Clairefontaine and the occasion is the first international meet-up since Cabaye completed his switch from Lille to Newcastle in late 2011. Moussa Sissoko is listening in to an excited conversation between the midfielder and new call-up Mathieu Debuchy. The talk turns to life in the North East of England.

"I have also told my friends in France about how wonderful the North East of England is and how amazing Newcastle is as a club," he said.

"When I first came here they convinced me to sign for the club. From what I have said and Hatem (Ben Arfa), maybe they now know before the club comes to them about Newcastle."

What began as a trickle of praise for the way United had treated their French arrival began to grow. With each passing international break, more and more players began to ask about life at St James' Park. Cabaye, respected and well-liked in the France set-up, couldn't be more positive.

The moment he believes he truly got France to sit up and take notice? His wonderful, swirling free-kick against Manchester United that capped a 3-0 win for a swaggering Magpies.

By then, Cabaye had become an accidental revolutionary. The club missed out on Loic Remy but, one by one, his friends began to check in at St James' Park.

First Romain Amalfitano, then Debuchy, then Yoan Gouffran and finally United landed the most significant coup of them all - Sissoko.

"What has happened at Newcastle with the French players is beyond my wildest dreams. To think the club would do a French day and the newspaper would print a French edition, I didn't expect that. But I'm glad it has happened.

"I know every single one of the French players who has joined Newcastle - I have played with all of them apart from Massadio Haidara, and he is a really nice guy. "I am delighted to see them in Newcastle and I'm happy to help them when they need me. I have been in their position so I know what is needed sometimes."

Alan Pardew describes Cabaye as a dream to manage - an ultra-professional footballer who takes care of himself on and off the pitch.

The key to his contentment is the way he has been able to settle with his family. Having never left France before his move to England, he has embraced the chance to show his young daughter a slice of life away from his hometown of Lille.

He described living in Newcastle as a "gift" to little Myla. "We are very happy in Newcastle. Myself andmywife (Fiona) and my little girl Myla, we love living here," he said. "I like to live a very quiet life. I like to stay home and to live a quiet life with my wife. Occasionally we will go out and have dinner out, but I prefer to stay home and relax with my wife and little baby.

"Myla is now going to the nursery. She can speak and understand English - much better than me in fact!

"Growing up in Newcastle is a gift for Myla for the rest of her life. …

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