Remember when Newcastle decided to raid Ligue 1 on a regular basis to try and get bargain deals but never used those players?

The likes of Yoan Gouffran, Sylvain Marveaux, Rémy Cabella and Florian Thauvin all came and went without really have much of an impact, while some like Moussa Sissoko or Yohan Cabaye were at least sold for a nice profit.

One of the big mysteries, however, remains Henri Saivet, bought from Bordeaux in January last year, and then only allowed to play a few games before disappearing altogether, only to reappear when news of a loan to Saint-Etienne became public knowledge over the summer.

The midfielder, now back in France temporarily, gave an extensive interview to France Football about his time at Newcastle, and he definitely had some interesting things to say.

For example, he never quite understood why French players were never given a chance, with the club having a reputation for being the graveyard for players from Ligue 1.

He explained: “When I arrived over there, I told myself the French clearly let themselves go. It didn’t make sense otherwise. Then I observed a lot and I quickly realised the French players, who played less, were as good if not better than the English.


“I then asked myself why bring in French players to not play them? It was stupid. Bit by bit, I started to realise what was going on at this club was really weird. Gouffran or Obertan, for example, were, for me, way better than those who would start.”

The player then went on to explain why he, like other Ligue 1 players at the club, disappeared from the face of the earth altogether under Steve McClaren, who seemed to be the one who wanted to bring him in in the first place.

He said: “When I arrived, McClaren was clear. I had to play. Competition isn’t a problem to me as long as the best person gets to play. For my first game, I came on against West Ham. It went well. The manager told me: ‘Keep going, that’s good’. We then went to Watford. We lost and I came off in the 55th minute.

“I saw the game again, I thought I’d been rubbish, but I hadn’t played badly. The manager told me: ‘I took you off for tactical reasons’. No problem. Then we played Everton. I came off at the same time again with the same explanation: ‘Tactical decision’.

“When I got to the bench, an English player asked me why I came off. He didn’t understand, telling me I was the best player on the pitch. From then on, nothing. I never played again.”

The midfielder then went on to describe how Steve McClaren used to come up to him and tell him he was happy with him, that he didn’t have anything bad to say about him and that he needed to continue.

Not playing, Saivet decided to go ask his manager why that was the case, but the answer was always the same: “He kept telling me he was happy with what I was doing. It was weird… I wasn’t playing, but he was happy with me. I wasn’t bringing anything to the team.”

When Rafa Benitez arrived, things didn’t improve, and the rest is history.

The player did, however, say he would be happy to give English football another try, with Newcastle, especially if they made it back to the Premier League.

Maybe he’s just saying that because he has a contract with them until 2021.