Toon feel Les Bleus

Posted by Lee Ryder

Yohan Cabaye and Newcastle French players celebSNSYohan Cabaye and his French compatriots at St James' Park.

Newcastle United fans usually make it clear that when it comes to international football it's a case of club before country. But there won't many members of the Toon Army who aren't keeping an eye on how things unfold for France during the international break.

With Yohan Cabaye, Mathieu Debuchy, Loic Remy and Moussa Sissoko all involved in Les Bleus' World Cup play-off with Ukraine over the next few days there are plenty of reasons to take an interest in the progress of Didier Deschamps' side.

Not least because Newcastle need them all back safe and sound for some crucial upcoming games, from which they could break into the top six, but also because it is important to keep the Magpies' French legion in fine fettle for the second half of the campaign.

All four are fighting for one of the last tickets to the finals in Brazil and while it won't be easy against Ukraine -- who made England fight all the way for a place at the World Cup -- the return of a happy quartet of Frenchmen next week is something that Alan Pardew will be hoping for.

The foursome have been in great form in the last two games, and qualifying for the Finals in Brazil will only continue to improve their mood.

And should they negotiate their way past Mykhaylo Fomenko's side in the two-legged clash, their next task will be to ensure they maintain that solid form throughout the spring -- which is good news for Newcastle United.

There were eyebrows raised when the Magpies bolstered their tally of French players in January. Many worried if the balance was right and whether a clash of personalities would affect the 2012-13 season finale. And there were the usual round of rumours of a lack of solidarity at one stage, which led to a journalist from the Daily Telegraph being banned.

But the club stuck to their guns and even called a "French Day" for the 4-2 win over Southampton.

As the club motored through the season and made it to the quarterfinals of the Europa League it looked like things could be working out well enough on Tyneside. What followed, though, was a lull.

Perhaps it hasn't worked out the way Pardew and United anticipated in that a 16th-place finish proved to be a testing end to the season.

Subsequent problems in the summer for Cabaye, who refused to play in the first two Premier League games and was promptly fined after a move to Arsenal fell through, and talisman Hatem Ben Arfa, whom Newcastle can't seem to get the best form out of, have not helped. Although there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel.

Victories over Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have resulted in notable displays for Cabaye, Debuchy, Sissoko and Remy.

As we approach almost a year for the likes of Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Massadio Haidara, Yoan Gouffran, Sissoko and Debuchy at the club's Benton base, they seem to be settling down. All have had their ups and downs at Newcastle.

Yet if the big four (or at least the men with the French shirts at the moment) can push on and book their places at the World Cup it will only help Pardew's team in the next few months as they look to maintain form and secure their place in the final squad for the tournament.

Especially as the momentum begins to gather for the big one in Brazil next year, because there's a great chance that Newcastle United's flag could be flown in South America.

Back on Tyneside, Pardew waits to count them in one by one. And he will be hoping that the sparkle of qualifying for the World Cup can be carried into the next two home games against Norwich and West Brom, with the Canaries clash a game at which it could be French day all over again.


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