Henri Saivet has revealed why he was desperate to join Newcastle United – despite the club’s dire Premier League predicament.
Saivet made his debut in Saturday’s 2-1 win over West Ham United.
The midfielder came off the bench after Paul Dummett limped out of the game with a hamstring problem.
Saivet joined fellow new signing Jonjo Shelvey – who had a hand in both goals – on the field at St James’s Park.
The 25-year-old agreed a five-and-a-half deal at the club after Bordeaux accepted a £5.5million bid from relegation-threatened Newcastle, who have specialised in signing players from France in recent seasons.
Saivet, however, would have been forgiven for having reservations about crossing the Channel to sign for United given that the club is again battling relegation.
The Senegal international spoke to his former Bordeaux team-mates Yoan Gouffran and Gabriel Obertan before committing to Newcastle.
And the pair recommended the club to him.
“I played with Gabby Obertan,” said Saivet. “We did about three or four years together, and we have stayed quite close.
“I spent three or four seasons with Yoan Gouffran as well at Bordeaux.
The image people have in France of Newcastle is that it’s massive club – it’s just struggling to get on track.Henri Saivet
“I did speak to them, and they only ever said good things about Newcastle as a club. I also played with a few of the other French players for the France Under-21s.
“It was good to get their opinions as well.”
Saivet, a Senegal international, insists the perception of Newcastle, seen as a “massive club” in France, remains positive on the continent.
“The image people have in France of Newcastle is that it’s massive club – it’s just struggling to get on track,” he said.
“Everything we like about Newcastle, it is a good traditional English club. It’s a little bit of a shame that they are not at the top of the Premier League where they deserve to be.”
Saivet can play on the wing, but he has been brought to United, set to sell Cheick Tiote to Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, as a defensive midfielder.
Asked about his role at St James’s Park, he said: “The aim for me is to play in front of the defence, to shore up the defence.
“But I am a ball player as well as a ball winner, so hopefully I can help the team to attack.”
Saivet, however, doesn’t expect to walk into head coach Steve McClaren’s starting XI, though, as he showed against West Ham, he is ready to play.
“That’s the head coach’s call – he will have to tell you more about that,” said Saivet.
“The most important thing is I’m ready and ready to play.
“If I’m called upon’ I will be out there and try to do my best.
“What matters more than anything more than anything at the moment is the club, there’s no player bigger than the club.
“That’s all that’s important, but I’m ready when called upon and I will make sure I give my best.”
Saivet – who could make his full debut against Watford against Vicarage Road on Saturday if Dummett fails to recover from injury – had to quickly adjust to the pace of the Premier League after replacing Dummett.
Reflecting on his bow, he said: “I was happy with the team performance.
“West Ham wanted a victory too, so we had to work hard.
“West Ham are a very good team – players like Dimitri Payet are excellent. I know him because I played against him in France.
“It’s important to move up the Premier League table for us. We are happy with the outcome.”
Saivet was warmly applauded on the pitch by the club’s fans.
“I know at Newcastle you have to give 110 per cent for these fans,” he said.
“But the most important thing was that it was a victory for the team. I wanted to start by showing power and aggression, so it was a very good day.”
Meanwhile, McClaren feels Saivet has given him a welcome extra option.
“We might see a bit more of Jack (Colback) at full-back, although we don’t want to because Dummett has been doing very well there.
“I thought it was very good, and Henri stepped into midfield well. You need a squad with options.”