ALFRED N’DIAYE insists Newcastle United’s French foreign legion are enemies, not friends, in today’s Tyne-Wear derby.
Newcastle’s contingent of eight players from across the Channel are familiar figures for Sunderland midfielder N’Diaye, who is braced to make his derby bow at St James’s Park today.
While N’Diaye faced ex-Lille pair Yohan Cabaye and Mathieu Debuchy in Ligue 1, it is three of Newcastle’s January recruits who are more familiar to the France Under-21 cap.
Left-back Massadio Haidara was N’Diaye’s team-mate at Nancy, while Moussa Sissoko and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa came through the French youth set-up alongside the 23-year-old.
But N’Diaye says today’s crucial derby is not the place for reunions, as Sunderland look for the first points of Paolo Di Canio’s reign as Black Cats head coach.
N’Diaye told the Football Echo: “It will be my first game against Newcastle and against some other French players.
“It will be the battle of the French players.
“A lot of them are my friends, but they won’t be on the pitch on Sunday. I will play hard to win the game.
“I know Sissoko, Mbwia, Haidara and (Gabriel) Obertan.
“I’ve played against Cabaye and Debuchy, but I don’t really know them. But the younger ones I’ve played with in the Under-21 team.”
January recruit N’Diaye may be making his derby debut, but he has been well-briefed by supporters and his team-mates about the importance of the bragging rights ever since arriving in a £3.8million deal from Turkish side Bursaspor.
And, with only goal difference separating Sunderland from the relegation zone, N’Diaye acknowledges that today’s tussle holds extra magnitude for the Black Cats.
“I came in January and in three months, everyone has told me that you need to win this game,” added N’Diaye.
“Everybody tells me about the atmosphere and the speed of game.
“It’s important for the fans and the whole city of Sunderland. We need to win this game for that and also because we are in a bad position in the league. Everyone needs to fight.”