Of all the players who currently play for Newcastle United, the one who has attracted the most jealous glances from other Premier League clubs in recent times is probably Yohan Cabaye. The Frenchman was vital to our league success last year, and, although his form has been occasionally patchy this season, the rule tends to be that if he plays well, the whole team plays well. As a result, he has been singled out for special treatment from the club, and is, in this opinion, a significant break from the strategy employed by the club prior to this summer.
Let me take you back to August 2011, two months after Cabaye joined the club. Club captain and motivator-in-chief Kevin Nolan, plus his sidekick Joey Barton, were unceremoniously booted out for, the prevailing rumours claim, being too influential in the dressing room against the upper echelons of the club management. Six months before, Andy Carroll had been sold for a club record £35m, while Jose Enrique followed Nolan and Barton during that August after his infamous comments that the ‘club would never again challenge for the top 6′ with the transfer policy then employed.
According to this transfer policy, a large enough offer for Cabaye or another one of our stars would be accepted. If the big clubs and the big money came in, then Ashley et al. would have no choice but to accept it. But I don’t believe that this is the case any more.
Allow me to elaborate: in the last transfer window, we signed several French players, all of whom were in contact with Cabaye prior to their moves here. One of the said French imports was Mathieu Debuchy, Cabaye’s best mate. The players were signed to fit around Cabaye. But above that, the players signed show a commitment to Cabaye. This club is now built more around him, our French ringleader, than any other person bar Graham Carr.
I believe that Cabaye is now in the exact position that Nolan was in prior to his sale. The difference is that the club does not feel threatened by Cabaye: they are the kingmaker, and they have made him king. Captaining the team at Swansea further supports this. But why is this significant? Is he not just being prepared for permanent captaincy after Colo’s expected departure in the summer? I ask you this: if you expected a player to be subject to a bid large enough to force the board to sell, why would groom a player in this way? This club is being built on a plan for long-term success, and that plan is based on Cabaye. Since our year in the championship, no player has been allowed to be above the rest of the squad, but this has now changed.