Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What's the French for "clique"?

"Need to brush up on my French because this is just getting ridiculous lol". So tweeted Little Big Lad last week, as we busied ourselves stockpiling Ligue 1 players like cans of beans ahead of an imminent apocalypse. While his tongue was probably lodged firmly in cheek, you can nevertheless detect an underlying unease and uncertainty: these pesky Frenchmen, coming over here and stealing our jobs...

On the one hand, there's no doubt whatsoever that we were in desperate need of fresh faces, and Jabba and Llambiarse should be commended for taking decisive action to right the wrongs of the summer (and put the disappointment of being snubbed by Loic £emy behind them). Speaking ahead of the crucial clash with Villa, the Silver Fox stressed this, revealing that we had been hoping to bide our time until the summer but that moves for targets (and Moussa Sissoko in particular) had been "accelerated" in response to our predicament. The players who have been brought in should add considerably to the strength of the first-team squad.

However, while it's hoped the new faces will help kickstart a revival in our fortunes, the influx also poses potential problems, unsettling the existing squad. How we manage the newbies' integration will be crucial - there is a definite danger of cliqueiness (and the consequent exclusion of the non-French-speaking players). The Silver Fox's tactic is simple: "They have to learn English or they will face penalties and hopefully they will grasp it." (No surprise that's been reported in the Daily Heil...) That said, it won't simply be about assimilation - no doubt the recent tradition of cultural days will continue and the diversity of the squad will be celebrated.

In truth, Little Big Lad is justified in having some cause for concern at the raft of new arrivals. The Silver Fox has admitted that the policy of buying from France and overseas in general is "not where we want to go", but that short-term need has dictated our actions: "We want to make our own players, but the truth is the players from the academy we put in haven't produced. I'm hoping it's too early for them, and that Sammy and Shane Ferguson, James Tavernier and Adam Campbell come through. They need to, because we can't keep buying players." With the new Financial Fair Play regulations looming large, the fact that our youth set-up is failing to produce is a serious problem, and Little Big Lad should be under no illusions that he needs to start delivering on his promise and undoubted talent.

In defence of Little Big Lad and chums, though, they've found themselves pressed into service in more difficult circumstances than could have been foreseen this season, so perhaps it's not surprising they've come up short. Ideally they'd have had the opportunity to get experience under their belt on loan at a lower level. It's certainly working wonders for Bradden Inman at Crewe, while Curtis Good is in with a shout of making an appearance in the League Cup final - something his parent club hasn't done since 1976. Our continued Europa League involvement - for another two matches at least - and the ineligibility of at least one of our new French contingent may well translate into a continued reluctance to loan out the youngsters.

So all Little Big Lad can do is to accept that the French invasion is for the good of the club, cultivate his "new French tache" in its honour and knuckle down in the hope of proving his worth to the squad.

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