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Former Newcastle United player declares: “Newcastle is like a big Lens”

1 year ago
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Massadio Haidara 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.

Injury and fitness problems followed, plus maybe struggling to deal with the mental side of things, in five and a half years Massadio Haidara only started 23 league games, never having a proper run in the team, whether through form, fitness and/or injury.

The free transfer at the end of his contract in the summer saw him join RC Lens, a big French club down on their luck in Ligue 2.

Having started 16 of their 18 league matches so far, the defender finally looks to have put his fitness issues to one side.

Currently third top in Ligue 2, Massadio Haidara and Lens are looking a decent bet for promotion, currently five points behind Brest and six behind leaders Metz.

Speaking in France, Massadio Haidara has said how much he loved his time at Newcastle, despite a lack of regular football, and would fancy playing again in England if possible.

As for a stand out thing, Haidara says ‘Wow!’ when talking about the fact that Newcastle averaged over 51,000 despite being relegated to the Championship for the 2016/17 season.

Comparing the two clubs, Massadio Haidara says ‘Newcastle is like a big Lens’.

RC Lens are averaging 27,482 at home games this season and this is over 16,000 more than any other Ligue 2 club, the next highest being leaders Metz who are averaging 11,051 at home so far.

Massadio Haïdara speaking to MadeInLens:

“I would not mind going back to England one day.

“It is a great country with a great championship.

“The atmosphere and everything related to football, it’s amazing. The bar is very high.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm and the whole country is running at the pace of football.

“When I went down (to the Championship) with Newcastle, we did not see any difference in the stands. There were as many people as usual. The stadium was full all the time: 52,000 people. It was wow! We did not understand (how we could get such big crowds after relegation).

“Newcastle is like a big Lens. When I arrived here that’s what I told myself. Racing (Club of Lens) passion immediately reminded me of Newcastle.

“In the near future, I hope that we will go up in Ligue 1. And stay there!

“If one day, we can play in a European Cup (competition), it would not be bad!

“I would like to be an  international. I want to progress over time and play the best competitions.

“Personal (life), I would like to have children and, once my career is over, do all I could not do as a footballer: eat what I want, travel more, etc …”

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