Henri Saivet clearly has a bee in his bonnet over team selection at Newcastle United. Speaking to this week’s edition of France Football, the midfielder more than insinuated there was a bias towards picking English players at the club.
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.
“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 only actual bias for Saivet may well be confirmation bias, in that he was seeing things that weren’t there, but which he liked to believe because it fit with his own ideas.
Rather than feeling he needed to improve his own game, maybe it was easier for Saivet to instead convince himself it was all the fault of others, and something strange was going on. Born in Senegal, Saivet played for France at various youth levels, and clearly saw himself as part of the French bunch at Newcastle.
If Newcastle United didn’t like French players then they wouldn’t have bought them, and given the club did all they could to avoid relegation (apart from playing better, obviously), the idea that there was a diktat to avoid the French, even if it cost the team, is somewhat absurd.
Saivert certainly believes it, and has been speaking again to the French media.
This time the player, now on loan at Saint Etienne, told L’Equipe the move was initially hugely welcome to “fulfil a childhood dream. I was going to play against teams like Manchester United, in a championship that grows year by year, the most watched and biggest in world media. Just look at the size of TV rights to measure its hugeness.”
But things went wrong and again Saivet has questioned the choices made by managers, feeling he should have played more: “In France, clubs must get a return on a player, putting pressure on him if necessary.
“Not in England where clubs have the means that even if you bought for €20m, they can put you on the bench. At €30m, they begin to think. England, it is not difficult but complicated in the sense that sometimes you do not understand all the choices.
“This is not a failure. This is a lesson. Football is a learning process.”
Maybe Saivet should do a little learning on accepting the decisions of managers and wondering if that may be to do with him, rather than a wider conspiracy.