Veteran Olympique Lyonnais midfielder Steed Malbranque, who spent a decade in England earlier in his career, said on Wednesday that the large colony of French players at Newcastle United would be a problem for the Premier League club.
“It will be a problem, I think, because, without meaning to, at the beginning, the French players will stick with each other,” Malbranque told a press conference. “If some of them don’t speak any English then they will only talk to the other Frenchmen. That could lead to the creation of cliques and could create problems in the squad. I hope not for them, but there is a risk.”
Newcastle, who are currently struggling in 16th place in the Premier League table, completed the signing of French centerback Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa from Montpellier Herault on Tuesday and also fullback Massadio Haidara from AS Nancy-Lorraine and striker Yoan Gouffran from Girondins de Bordeaux on Wednesday.
That takes the number of French players in Alan Pardew’s squad to 10, while Cheick Tiote, Gael Bigirimana and Papiss Cisse are also French speakers.
Malbranque, who turned 33 earlier this month, enjoyed a successful spell in England with Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland, before returning to France in 2011 and then rejoining his first club, Lyon, at the beginning of this campaign.
He formed part of a large colony of French players at Fulham under French coach Jean Tigana and said the onus is on Pardew to bring the squad together.
“At Fulham, we didn’t have any major problems, but it is true that we French often kept to ourselves,” he said. “There was a little bit of tension, but once the French coach left things were different. The coach must fix the rules. Tigana made us speak English to the other French players to show the English guys that we were making the effort. There were little things like that. I don’t know Alan Pardew, but if there are no rules then there will be problems.”
Malbranque knows the northeast of England well after his spell with Newcastle’s local rivals Sunderland and he joked that the new recruits would need time to adjust to the climate.
“They are going to be cold. It will be tough. The atmosphere in Newcastle is good, but they will still feel the cold,” he said.