I never really knew what to make of Massadio Haidara.
He became the last surviving member of the French famous five brought in to save Newcastle from relegation in January 2013.
Debuchy sold July 2014, Yanga-Mbiwa out on loan to Roma in August 2014 and later deal made permanent, Sissoko sold August 2016, then Gouffran released at the end of his contract in June 2017.
The left-back had just turned 21 when arriving on Tyneside but already a regular in Ligue 1 with Nancy after 45 league matches, he looked a very decent prospect.
In only his second game though, after coming on a sub for Debuchy, Wigan’s Callum McManaman launched that cowardly assault on the young defender, Newcastle not even getting a free-kick.
Did that effectively end his Newcastle career before it started?
We’ll never know – but it certainly didn’t help and with injury and fitness problems, plus maybe struggling to deal with the mental side of things, we never found out what Massadio Haidara could potentially do.
In five and a half years he only started 23 league games, never having a proper run in the team, whether through form, fitness and/or injury.
Aged 25 and having wasted half a career at Newcastle United, the release at the end of his contract saw him join RC Lens on a free transfer.
A big French club down on their luck in Ligue 2.
A couple of months into the season and Saturday saw Massadio Haidara start his ninth league game of the season, a 2-1 win at Auxerre to put Lens top of Ligue 2.
Starting nine of the ten league matches, he has played every minute of those nine games and finally looks to have put his fitness issues to one side.
At Newcastle he looked in flashes like he could be a very good attacking full-back but obviously not enough to get a regular game.
In two months at Lens he has played more league football than in the last three and a half years of his Newcastle career.
It is only the French second tier but I have to say he is looking very good. Lens are based in the north of France and I was there for a couple of weeks holiday early in the season.
I drove down with the family, my wife’s sister has married a French bloke who just happens to support them (Lens).
I went to a couple of matches when I was there and as well as being impressed by Haidara, the thirty thousand crowds that Lens get in Ligue 2 are excellent as well, especially compared to what most clubs get even in Ligue 1.
The wife’s brother in law and his other mates who support the club, all think Newcastle have made a mistake letting the defender go.
Top of the league and with by far the best defensive record (conceded 4 in 10 games) in Ligue 2, Massadio Haidara and Lens are looking good.
If/when they get to Ligue 1, I’ll be interested to see how the former NUFC player gets on, especially as Newcastle are still looking to buy that elusive attacking left-back to improve the team/squad…