“Well, there’ only him or Henri Saivet, so it was pretty straightforward” Steve Bruce responded to journalists when asked who would replace DeAndre Yedlin in Newcastle United’s 25-man Premier League squad. I wouldn’t be surprised if these remarks left a few Newcastle United fans were left scratching their heads asking Henri who?

Steve McClaren signed Saivet from French champions Bordeaux in January 2016 on a 5-and-a-half-year deal for a reported fee of £5 million. The 26-year-old Senegalese midfielder had made 134 appearances for the French club, chipping in with 17 goals. He’d also been capped 11 times by Senegal. It sounded as if we had signed a good player, coming into his prime. Speaking at Saivet’s unveiling McClaren said; “Henri is someone the Club have been watching for a while, and he has developed into an excellent player at Bordeaux. This is someone with a very good mentality, who is a tough player and a winner. Those are key qualities you need in the Premier League and we are looking forward to seeing him pulling on the Newcastle United shirt.”

Saivet joined Jon Jo Shelvey, Andros Townsend and Seydou Doumbia as January window arrivals, in an attempt to save Newcastle’s season under McClaren. Newcastle lay in 18th spot in the table going into February. Saivet wasn’t set to become a first team regular, with Newcastle having plenty of options in midfield including internationals; Moussa Sissoko, Gini Winjaldum, Vurnon Anita and Siem De Jong. However, the new number ‘26’ would provide useful backup in a squad that was approaching some difficult fixtures in an attempt to avoid relegation to the championship.

Fast forward to January 2021 and Saivet is entering the last 6 months of his original 5-and-a-half-year contract having made a total of 8 first team appearances. He’s been farmed out on loan 3 times to St- Étienne, Sivasspor and Bursapor. His last appearance was in December 2017 following a recall by Benitez to play against West Ham. Saivet in fact scored a fine free kick in a 3-2 away victory. His failure to depart in the January window along with Bruce’s quotes above would suggest that Saivet is set to wind down his contract at St James Park, knowing that he won’t feature in any competitive football matches until next season at the earliest. By the time he leaves Newcastle he will be approaching 31 years of age and arguably entering the twilight of his professional career.

Ahead of Saivet’s 5th season as a Newcastle player Steve Bruce described the situation to reporters in August 2020: “He is a really good professional. “But I think it is fair to say that we need to go and find him a club. He’s not played for a long, long time for this club. “I feel for the lad because it’s not his fault, unfortunately. He trains everyday and he’s a really good pro. We hope we can get him fixed up over the next few weeks.

As a professional footballer how can you go to training week in week out knowing that you stand no chance of playing any competitive football? You have no chance of actually doing the job you are actually being paid for. What exactly went wrong? Did it become clear after a few training sessions that Saivet had no footballing ability what so ever? Has the player just not settled in the area and been trying to get a move away but clubs were not willing to pay Newcastle’s asking price? Is he just happy picking up a few grand a week, having a kick about with his mates and putting his feet up on a Saturday afternoon and watching Final Score? A situation like this is surely very rare in professional football.

Saviet joined other signings who fell in to that bracket in Newcastle United’s recent History. Newcastle signed Spanish striker Xisco from Deportivo in August 2008, to be closely followed by the signing Uruguayan Nacho Gonzalez. Then manager Kevin Keegan was asked to watch Gonzalez on a YouTube video by Director of Football and Ashely’s pal Dennis Wise. Keegan quickly replied that the player was not required, but the signing was forced upon him. It later transpired that Xisco and Gonzalez were signed as a favour to agents who had settled the deals that saw Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez arrive from La Liga earlier in the summer. The deal was the beginning of the end for Keegan who resigned on 4th September 2008, having been informed shortly after the final whistle at the League cup tie with Coventry that the club were selling James Milner to Aston Villa. Xisco made 9 appearances in 5 seasons, including 2 loan spells. Gonzalez featured twice in the 08/09 season before being sold to Valencia. Ironically both players now play for rival clubs in Montevideo the Uruguayan capital.

This week it was announced that Achraf Lazaar would be leaving the club by mutual consent. Lazaar joined Newcastle in August 2016 from Palermo as the club prepared for a campaign in the Championship. Lazaar would go on to make only 9 appearances in 4 seasons. The left back was loaned out to Benevento, Sheffield Wednesday, and Cosenza, none of which were successes for the Moroccan. Lazaar failed to make more than 10 appearances at any one of those clubs.

None of these players have been anything but professional in their approach to life at Newcastle United. None have gone on strike or refused to play. None of them adopted the same attitude as Jack Rodwell at our friends down the road. Rodwell was content to sit in the stands and pick up his wages while his employers were battling to avoid a second relegation in as many seasons. Rodwell was hoping to achieve a move to a Premier League club, but none would match his wages.

These players were nothing but committed to the cause but we have had a thing recently with disappearing men at Newcastle United. Examples of the flaws in Mike Ashley’s transfer policy. The plan clearly being to buy young players from abroad, with no Premier League experience, for small transfer fees, in the hope that they would improve so they could be sold on at inflated prices to line Ashley’s pockets. Rather like our owners business ploys in retail; buy in cheap stock and sell it on, using the profits to reduce the price of premium brand clothing in his stores, thus remaining competitive on the high street.

Perhaps 1 in 10 of these signings would become a success. We had Yohan Cabaye who was relatively unknown when he signed from Lille for 4.5 million in the summer of 2011, when we expected to see bigger name signings with Newcastle’s embarking on a second season in the Premier League since bouncing back from relegation. Cabaye went on to become an outstanding player and in my opinion the best Newcastle player in the past 10 years but was then sold to PSG for £20 million, leaving an enormous gap to plug once again.

Will all that being said, we did acquire proven Premier League talent last summer in Wilson and Fraser, one of whom who has been nothing but outstanding. But you could almost guarantee if a top half Premier League club came in with a £30 million offer for our goal scorer Wilson in the summer Ashely would have their hand off.

This club will not progress with any more disappearing men.

Adam Morrison