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Thursday, January 24, 2013
Malbranque warns of Newcastle 'problem'

Ian Holyman, France Correspondent

Premier League veteran Steed Malbranque has warned Newcastle United they could face a dressing room revolution after adding yet another French player to their squad.

• Blog: Tuesday extraordinaire!

Yoan Gouffran, 26, became the second player in a week after Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, 23, and the third in the January transfer window to swap Ligue 1 for St James' Park when he signed a four-and-a-half year deal on Wednesday.

If Massadio Haidara completes his switch from Nancy to North-East England, as is expected this week, the full-back will take the tally of Frenchman in Alan Pardew's squad into double figures.

Add to that Ivorian Cheick Tiote, Burundi-born Gael Bigirimana and Papiss Cisse from Senegal, and more than a third of the Newcastle playing staff are French speakers - a factor which Malbranque told lequipe.fr will undermine team unity.

"It will be a problem, I think, because unconsciously, at the start, the French will stick with the French. If, included in that group, some of them don't speak English, they'll only remain among themselves," the Lyon midfielder, who made more than 300 appearances for Fulham, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland over a decade in the Premier League, said.

"That can create clans and problems in the squad. I hope that, for their sake, it doesn't happen, but there's the risk."

Malbranque, 33, moved from Lyon to Craven Cottage in 2001, swelling the number of his compatriots in Jean Tigana's squad, which also included Alain Goma, Sylvain Legwinski and Steve Marlet. Though he acknowledged there was never a serious issue, the experienced midfielder did concede the atmosphere improved with Tigana's sacking late in the 2002-03 season.

He added: "At Fulham, there were never big problems, but it's true that we French players were often together. There was some tension, and when the coach was no longer French, it was different."

Malbranque's comments were echoed by former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, with the New York Red Bulls' technical director also predicting troubled times ahead for the Magpies.

"You can't stop the French speaking French. The dressing room will be unbalanced. There will be problems," he told the Sun.




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