YOHAN Cabaye says Newcastle United’s French players have the English grit to back up their Gallic flair.
And stand-in captain Cabaye and his team-mates will need both qualities against Anzhi Makhachkala at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium tomorrow night.
Cabaye crossed the Channel a year and a half ago – and the midfielder has since been joined by a clutch of his French countrymen, with five arriving in last month’s transfer window.
Tricolours have been waved home and away by Newcastle supporters this and last season, and the recent home game against Southampton was designated as “French Day” by the club.
This is a source of pride to Cabaye and the rest of United’s French legion.
But he is respectful of the traditions at St James’s Park – and the demands of English fans.
“We’re proud of that (the tricolour flags), but we don’t forget we’re playing for an English team,” Cabaye said.
“We’re fighting for Newcastle. For us, it’s very good to play for Newcastle.”
Some in France questioned their decision to join a club fighting relegation – Montpellier president Louis Nicollin criticised defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa for choosing the club – but Cabaye is confident last month’s arrivals won’t regret their choice of team.
Cabaye’s international career with France has gone from strength to strength since he joined Newcastle. And he believes the likes of Yanga-Mbiwa, Mathieu Debuchy, Moussa Sissoko, Massadio Haidara and Yoan Gouffran have the right “mentality and spirit” to flourish in the Premier League.
They also have the technical ability to flourish in European competition. And all – bar the cup-tied Gouffran – could start against Anzhi in the first-leg of the Round of 16 tie, while fit-again forward Hatem Ben Arfa, another Frenchman, is pencilled in to make his comeback in Moscow.
“They are coming with a good mentality and spirit,” said Cabaye. “They want to improve, and they can play for the team.
“In France, they have spoken about their choice, and they have a big motivation at Newcastle. They want to show everybody they didn’t make a mistake to come to Newcastle.”
Cabaye is expected to lead the side out at the Luzhniki Stadium in the absence of injured skipper Fabricio Coloccini.