NEWCASTLE United midfielder Yohan Cabaye has hit back at claims of a split in the dressing room – and instead blamed a poor campaign on lack of preparation in pre-season.
Cabaye was once again an instrumental figure in the Magpies’ ranks, with his second season on Tyneside seeing him joined by a number of French compatriots.
But while his first term in English football was a success, with Newcastle finishing fifth in the league, and qualifying for Europe, last season was a disaster, with United only narrowly avoiding relegation.
An awful run of results in April saw accusations of splits in the camp, with some fingers pointed at the French contingent, led by Cabaye.
But the midfielder insists the squad – including the January signings – was united in fighting against relegation.
He said: It is always complicated to all arrive together; the club did as much as they could to help, with an interpreter to help them settle.
“It helped, but in some ways it didn’t, as they constantly had to rely on things being translated, and also speaking French.
“But with regards to the overall group, there were never any tension.
If anything, the group lived well together, and we all stuck together to avoid relegation.
“There is no doubt that if the group was working well, people would have said ‘ah that’s great, that the French have come to help the club’.
“Unfortunately it did not work that well, so obviously it became our fault, for the ones who arrived in January.
“It is a good job that we managed to save ourselves before the last match as playing at home with the pressure of the public would have made it harder.
“Also, it would have led to some bad publicity for the French players.
“They arrived in numbers in January, and at the beginning it worked well, and then we went through a bad period. If we had been relegated it would have been very difficult, and we needed to avoid it come what may.
“It is important not to attribute all this negativity to the group who arrived in January. We will use this to help us for next season.”
Newcastle’s Premier League form was hindered by a tough Europa League campaign, with a limited squad not able to cope with the extra games.
The Magpies had prepared for the campaign with a number of European excusions, including trips to Germany, Portugal and Holland which were organised late on.
And Cabaye believes more could have been done to prepare for the big kick-off.
“It was a complicated season,” he added. “To pinpoint reasons for this, I don’t really know, it is a bit of everything.
“We did not particularly prepare well in pre-season; the beginning of the season; Europe and the extra matches; plus a smaller squad and a younger one.
“We encountered difficulties in playing in two competitions, also physically a lot of injuries and players were missing.
“We rarely managed the same starting XI in consecutive matches - all this added to the complication.”