Mathieu Debuchy isn’t the most popular figure at Newcastle United. Forcing his way out of the club to Arsenal, it’s fair to say some Newcastle fans have taken pleasure from his time with the Gunners not going perfectly.

But when Debuchy was at St James’ Park he contributed a lot, and it’s a period of his career which still leaves a mark.

Now with Saint Etienne, Debuchy today plays in the huge derby against Lyon, one of the biggest matches in French football. Asked by L’Equipe whether derbies are special for him, Debuchy made sure to mention Newcastle playing against Sunderland, and held it aloft from his derbies with Arsenal.

“A derby is always a match that you look forward to and that marks you. I still remember a North derby won 4-1 at Lens (September 11, 2010, Debuchy was playing for Lille). To win it away is even stronger. I continued to dispute these in England. A derby between Newcastle and Sunderland, it’s really huge.

“It is played in an incredible atmosphere, even stronger than at Arsenal-Tottenham. The people in each club hate each other so much that they only talk to you about the derby. They live only for that, even more in the north of England. A bit like Saint-Etienne. When you see at Geoffroy-Guichard (Saint Etienne’s stadium) the tifos of supporters, it’s magic. Just in front of your television, it gives chills.”

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Debuchy is getting his form back after a difficult spell with Arsenal, and will be hoping he can get back to his Newcastle level. Unfortunately, the prospect of Sunderland matches against Newcastle isn’t looking great at the moment.

Rafael Benitez is keeping his club’s head above water right now, but even if Newcastle were relegated, with Chris Coleman’s Sunderland at the bottom of the Championship, that could still see the clubs in different leagues.

But when Newcastle do face Sunderland again, there’s a pretty good chance Mathieu Debuchy will be watching.