Classically fans wait for the dust to settle after a transfer window shuts, to see the repercussions. The closing of the summer transfer window has dislodged about as much dust at NUFC as the contents of an unopened tomb; or more to the point, as the dead moths in a wallet that never opens. Repercussions there still are, however. Pretty much the only activity in the last month involving the club was a half-hearted bid from Arsenal for midfielder Yohan Cabaye. After what seemed like a deliberately low bid to make the player aware of their interest, they never returned. The Gunners ended up spending £40m+ on Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid and I have to say if my choice was that or upwards of £20m on Cabaye I’d choose the German too. Cabaye was unsettled and didn’t appear on Newcastle’s first two games of the season. When he finally did return as a sub in Saturday’s win against Fulham, having realised the interest in him wasn’t enough to meet Newcastle’s price, a section of the crowd booed him.
The sentiment is understandable. It’s tough for fans to see a player who has pulled out all the stops to move elsewhere end up pulling on the shirt again. Loyalty for a football fan can override all other considerations. Look how hard Newcastle fans find it to protest in any meaningful way – by which I mean not turning up – against Mike Ashley’s running of the club. We’re all aware that players don’t share that loyalty. How could they? It’s a job for them, nothing more. Just like any of us they may like a particular job more than another, but that won’t stop them moving if they have a chance to enhance their career. When a desire to leave is made so very public as Cabaye’s was, it becomes very difficult to ignore however. Refusing to play, if that is what he did, is unprofessional, disloyal, and a slap in the face for the club’s followers. The truth as to players’ relationships with the club can no longer be conveniently swept to one side.
It’s tempting to call for him to be consigned indefinitely to the reserves, to make an example that no player will forget as his chances of national selection disappear in a World Cup year. It’s also tempting to insist he doesn’t displace others in the team who as yet haven’t publicly displayed their own particular brand of disloyalty. Tempting, but impractical. Cabaye is one of the best-paid players at the club, and just as it would be a disaster if one of Newcastle’s best-paid players was ineffective, they also can’t afford to leave him out as a spiteful punishment.
Quite simply Newcastle don’t have anyone else who can do what Cabaye can, no-one who is likely to pick out a chance-creating pass. When he’s on the field Newcastle’s results are markedly better. Against Fulham on Saturday, the introduction of Cabaye along with Loic Remy made the difference between a side struggling for penetration and one able to go on and win the game. Newcastle were relegation strugglers all last season, who then arguably didn’t strengthen at all in the summer while those around them spent money as if it was coming into fashion. It would be madness to weaken the side further by ignoring one of its best players purely because our collective pride had been pricked. If a relegation struggle is to be avoided, the club needs to have its best side on the pitch. Cabaye is here at least until January and until then he is in that best side.