NEWCASTLE United have been backed to make an impression on the Premier League – despite the lack of an incoming No9.
The club angered fans by failing to sign a striker before Wednesday night’s transfer deadline.
Attempts to sign a number of players, including Bryan Ruiz, Modibo Maiga and Papiss Demba Cisse, came to nothing to the frustration of supporters – and manager Alan Pardew.
The famous No9 jersey, last donned by Andy Carroll before his January sale to Liverpool, will remain unworn.
But former Newcastle defender Olivier Bernard – who made 102 appearances for the club after moving from Lyon in 2000 – is confident the club can still compete.
Parisien Bernard – whose own career was ended prematurely by injury – has confidence in his French countrymen, United having signed five players from across the Channel this summer.
“I’m pretty happy with what they’ve done (in the transfer market), but obviously we still want a No9,” Bernard said.
“I think we’re good enough through the midfield to really play well.
“We have good footballers through the midfield. I feel Newcastle will be strong enough. We could be stronger, but we’re strong enough to compete.”
Midfielder Yohan Cabaye, signed from French double winners Lille, has already caught the eye, while Bernard rates winger Sylvain Marveaux highly.
“Yohan Cabaye has done really well,” added Bernard. “He’s tidy player. He’s not afraid of a tackle and he’s vert clever.
“He switches the play and I believe he and Cheik Tiote can be one of the best pairs in the Premier League.
“I think Marveaux has proved he can live with the squad. He is respected in France – Charles N’Zogbia had to play left-back for France because of him.
“He’s not just a squad player and I think he can do a lot of good things for the club.”
Newcastle also signed winger Gabriel Obertan from Manchester United and striker Demba Ba after a spell at West Ham United.
Bernard went on: “I think Obertan is going to do a lot – he’s not a second-best signing. He’s a really good player.
“I really liked Demba Ba at West Ham. He wasn’t 100 per cent against Scunthorpe (in the Carling Cup), but as the club hasn’t signed a No9, he will have to lead the line.
“It’s a big task for him, but with the midfield and passing ability, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.”
Bernard knows the difficulties French players have adapting to English football from personal experience, but he believes Pardew’s signings will prove astute.
However, it’s not just technical ability that’s needed, but also leadership, with Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton having controversially left St James’s Park this summer.
“I think the French players will adapt,” he said. “I watched the derby (against Sunderland) and they were not 100 per cent – it was too soon for them to play a derby.
“We have lost Kevin Nolan – who was a big presence on the pitch and a big voice in the dressing room – and somebody has to fill that gap.”