Allan Saint-Maximin reveals why he left the field in agony
The headlines belonged to Matty Longstaff.
Longstaff’s strike against Manchester United on a sodden St James’s Park pitch lifted the gloom on Tyneside.
The midfielder’s goal, which gave Newcastle United a 1-0 win, also lifted the club out of the Premier League’s relegation zone.
One player, however, had lifted the team from the first whistle.
That same player had had to watch, frustrated, from the bench at the King Power Stadium seven days earlier as his team-mates were beaten 5-0 by Leicester City.
That player was Allan Saint-Maximin, signed from Nice for £16.5million in the summer.
Saint-Maximin ran and ran in the first 45 minutes. The 22-year-old teased and toyed with the visiting defence. The winger, wearing black and white Gucci headband, quickly settled into the game and unsettled Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s team.
At the end of the half Saint-Maximin – who has been troubled by a hamstring problems this season – had to be helped off the field. He was in pain, and fans were concerned that he wouldn’t make it back on to the pitch.
The game was still goalless, and there was relief inside the stadium – and in homes across Tyneside – when Saint-Maximin reappeared after a massage during the interval.
“I had a little bit of pain when I jumped, but after they did some massage and I was stronger,” said Saint-Maximin, who is now recovering ahead of the October 19 home game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
“I wanted to come back on the pitch. I have a little bit of pain, but I have two weeks to do a good recovery. I’m happy.”
Newcastle had found themselves under more pressure in the second half – and they needed to relieve that pressure.
In the 72nd minute Saint-Maximin took the ball inside his own half. He was quickly surrounded by four visiting players. He advanced and played the ball out to Jetro Willems, who cut back and rolled it to the oncoming Longstaff. One touch later the ball joined Saint-Maximin – who had carried on running – in the net.
Saint-Maximin was delighted for Longstaff, who had made his Premier League debut in midfield alongside his elder brother Sean.
“I’m really happy,” said Saint-Maximin. “I try to run and dribble, because it’s my job. I gave a good pass to Jetro, and he did some good skills to give a pass to Matty, and he scored a really good goal.”
The win had followed a shambolic 5-0 defeat to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium a week earlier. That loss had left the club second-bottom – and Steve Bruce under even more pressure.
“It’s a really important victory,” added Saint-Maximin, who played on the left. “We lost against Leicester, and everybody was disappointed. We kept working, and now we played against Manchester United, a great team, and everybody is happy.”
There had been a buzz in the stands every time Saint-Maximin took the ball. Saint-Maximin had felt that buzz – and responded to it.
He tweeted a clip of the goal after the game with the caption: “It feels good to play football in this stadium Thank you for the support.”
“It gives me a good feeling,” he said. “I try to run more and enjoy. We’re happy because we win. Even if I don’t score or assist, it’s OK for me because Matty did a great job.”
Saint-Maximin – who was untroubled by injuries at Nice last season – is now determined to stay fit and help the club, now 16th in the league, climb further away from trouble.
“I feel better, but I have to keep working,” said Saint-Maximin. “I need to play more. I need to play every game to feel much better. I’m really happy.
“My quality is to run and do some dribbling. Sometimes I do a lot of things on the pitch. My last season in France, I played every game. I changed league and had an injury, but I kept working to come back. I played 82 minutes, I think.
“My job is to dribble and the fans like this. Everybody’s happy because we won an important game before the break.”
Saint-Maximin had been caught by a Brighton and Hove Albion player on his previous home appearance after coming off the bench. Bruce chose not to risk him against Leicester, and he was kept on the bench.
“I cannot run always really fast and not have injuries,” said the former France Under-21 international, who has signed a six-year deal at Newcastle. “Sometimes, this happens, but you have to keep working and do everything to come back stronger.
“It’s what I do. I play a good game, and now I have two weeks before a great game against Chelsea. Everyone wanted to win this game before the break. We ran a lot. Me too. After, when you win you enjoy.”
Saint-Maximin and his team-mates are now looking for consistency over the coming weeks and months.
“Everybody was really disappointed because we lost an important game against Leicester,” he said. “Now we showed we can win against a really good team. Now we have to do again against smaller teams.”