Alan Pardew denies rift between Newcastle's French and English players

Alan Pardew has vehemently denied the existence of damaging divisions between his French and non-French speaking players and described such suggestions as "insulting".

He maintains that Newcastle United's problems are much more about a collective lack of experience. The Newcastle manager did acknowledge, however, that the inability of five January imports from Ligue 1 to speak English sometimes complicated his job.

It has been a tough few days for Pardew and his relegation threatened squad after their 6-0 home defeat against Liverpool, a setback that followed a 3-0 reverse against Sunderland at St James' Park a fortnight earlier.

"When you are beaten like that at home it's never comfortable to deal with," he said. "But as far as I'm concerned the group is very much together, pulling together, trying to get a result at West Ham on Saturday.

"The fact that we have a lot of French players and some language difficulties – working through an interpreter can make understanding certain things difficult – has been torn up and made to be something else but there is no problem. As you would expect after losing like that to Liverpool a lot of criticism has come our way, some of it completely unfounded, left-field and way, way off the mark. But we put a poor performance in last Saturday and we need to put that right."

Pardew poured scorn on the notion that Newcastle's French players lack the stomach for a relegation fight, hinting that such theories were xenophobic.

"I just find that accusation insulting, if I'm honest. If you think because some of our players are from a foreign country, they're not bothered, it's just ridiculous," he said. "We've got good, focused footballers and we go to West Ham looking for a win.

"It's completely unfair on the French players. I feel aggrieved by it because it's unfair on a group of young players from France who've done everything they can to settle in here. They are quite hurt by it.

"The biggest problem is that, between us, we lack experience. Heavy defeats break your spirit and that's happened to a few of my players. I don't think our problem is a language problem, I don't think it's a cultural problem, in my opinion, it's been an experience problem. We've got a lot of Premier League inexperience on the pitch.

"Because of injuries we've had to play three or four of the five we bought in January more than we wanted, Massadio Haïdara for instance wasn't expected to play at all this year."

Pardew scoffed at a suggestion from Gary Neville, the Sky analyst and former Manchester United and England defender, that the presence of so many French players threatened to "rip the heart out" of a northern club. "Has he ever been a manager?" he said.

"Of course they [the French contingent] are bothered. Our professionalism is on the line. But we have our destiny in our own hands and we can put it right. We have got a little gap – [five points over third bottom Wigan] – and we need to exploit that."

Pardew held talks with his squad earlier this week but maintained that they remained civilised. "Monday was a sort of blood-letting day but there have not been words that have been out of turn," he said, swatting away theories about a brewing Francophone mutiny. "If you don't get feedback from your players, trust me, you are not going to be a manager at any level.

"You need feedback to understand the problems they are experiencing and make sure you have a game plan that works. Since Tuesday we've been very strong. We've discussed what the problems were against Liverpool, why they happened and what we need to put right."

Acting logically and coolly have been priorities. "I don't need my team to play angry on Saturday, I need them to play with calm heads at a difficult place."

Nonetheless Pardew revealed that Hatem Ben Arfa – still struggling with a suspect hamstring – was "very angry" about a "completely fabricated, intelligence insulting" report that he was in talks with Tottenham.

Powered by article was written by Louise Taylor, for The Guardian on Thursday 2nd May 2013 22.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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