As Tyneside prepares to bid farewell to a true maverick, team TF got together to share our best memories of our mercurial Frenchman. He may soon be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten.
St. Mary’s, 7 March 2020. Ten minutes to go.
Maxi had been the game’s outstanding performer. He’d won a penalty, fluffed by Matt Ritchie. He’d put one on a plate for Dwight Gayle, too, only to see the chance spurned. He’d tormented the Saints defence all afternoon, but with the clock ticking down, the scoreline sat stubbornly at zeroes. Suddenly, there he was, breathing down the neck of Yan Valery. A few seconds later, he was performing somersaults in front of an almost implausibly bouncy away end – having forced the error, cut inside, and impudently toe-poked a finish beyond McCarthy. Scenes, as they say, as we hailed what we knew was the winner against Southampton’s ten men. Joy unconfined among travelling hordes, who perhaps were not to know it would be over a year until they’d be inside a football stadium again.
This was the only time that Maxi ever celebrated a Premier League winner in front of his adoring public. At SJP, it did not happen even once. Sure, Maxi could point to mitigating factors. For the lion’s share of his time with Newcastle, we made little habit of winning (in 2021-22, his most productive goalscoring season here, he scored five – all in games which we drew). And, of course, there was Covid (he did score a winner at Turf Moor during that time, but nobody saw it). The truth, however, is that he was neither productive nor consistent enough, which is why he is being moved on. Those somersaults on the South Coast seemed a harbinger of more to come. Yet it did not come to pass.
He will, nonetheless, be remembered fondly, and rightly so. Football is not just about statistics or winning matches. If it was, we’d all have packed it in some time ago. It’s about joy, escapism and fun. It’s about excitement, flair and taking risks. It is supposed to make us smile. It is a form of entertainment. Maxi entertained us in a way that statisticians cannot account for. He was for quite some time the only thing good about Newcastle United, the only thing which made us worth watching at all, the only thing which reminded us – when we were at such a low ebb – of why we love football. We’ve now had the major reconstructive surgery, but in the dark days of the late-Ashley / Bruce era, we needed morphine, and Maxi – with (admittedly occasional) magic in his boots – provided it.
He had limitations. He was by no means top-class. Of course he wasn’t. We were not in the business of signing top-class footballers back then. We were not a real football club.
Maxi leaves Newcastle United as an adopted Geordie, someone who made us smile when very little else did, and someone who will never need to buy his own pint on Tyneside. I will miss him.
YOUSEF HATEM / @yousef_1892
Steve Bruce’s Newcastle had once again conspired to look absolutely shite, as they often did.
After a positive start, with Sean Longstaff and even Joelinton scoring (whatever happened to that guy?) they managed to squander their two-goal advantage away at lowly Oxford, a team with only three stands on their ground, to be forced into an embarrassing and needless period of extra time.
Step up, Allan Saint-Maximin.
The Frenchman was the go-to source of inspiration in a team that so often was utterly bereft of hope or joy, where celebration had become a foreign concept for supporters. Only he could’ve sparked the celebrations seen in the away end that cold February night.
As he gracefully dodged the challenges of two lower league defenders, slaloming his way to the edge of the area, he hit a shot that found the top corner with such power, it inspired one Newcastle fan to remove both his jeans and his shreddies and show his appreciation with what Maxi himself later labelled a “penicopter”.
Scan through the players in the squad that day; look at the names on the teamsheet – there is only one person who could’ve brought about such a reaction from supporters. No other goalscorer could have produced a moment of such elation that a man would risk a stadium ban while celebrating an extra-time winner with his dick and balls, away at Oxford United in a fourth-round replay in the FA Cup.
That was the effect of Allan Saint-Maximin – a talent so special; it was easy to get caught in the moment, to feel like there was even the faintest chance of progress or success when all other evidence clearly showed there was none. He was a talented, one-of-a-kind man, who leaves behind special memories and tremendous appreciation, for the most part.
That’s a great deal more than most who’ve exited the club in recent years could ever have hoped for.
RYAN GRAY / @ryanjgray89
On Sunday 21st August 2022 at approximately 4:20pm, the great Pep Guardiola sank to his knees in the away dugout as Allan Saint-Maximin broke clear in front of the Milburn Stand and was one v one with Manchester City right back Kyle Walker. Guardiola feared the worst. Saint-Maximin drove at the England defender, turning him inside out before playing in Callum Wilson who took two touches to set himself before flicking the ball over Allison to put Newcastle 2-1 up against the champions.
ASM had given the City defenders a torrid time up to that point, having previously tricked Walker on the byline before crossing for Miggy Almirón to equalise at the far post. Maxi was unplayable that day and Guardiola’s reaction to his break earlier in the game told the world just how good our French winger could be. However, the stunning performances have just been too inconsistent. We’ve a history of watching dazzling French wingers stun opposition defenders, but more often than not the outcome has been the same; a one-in-ten performance, all too few and far between. If our number 10 does depart for the middle east, it will be a huge shame, but we need players who can offer a more consistent end product.
ADAM MORRISON / @AdamMor41788032
So the mercurial, divisive and sometimes difficult Frenchman is off to sunnier climes. The lad who could do whatever he wanted under Bruce, turn up for training, nip off to France or just do seventeen stepovers in the corner.
If I was to be honest about what I’ll miss, it’s the one game in five he actually turned up and did something. I won’t miss the hands going up in the air any time something didn’t go his way, or the time spent adding extra layers of bandages to his leg.
He could cause genuine excitement, against Man City this season he was incredible. But was he prepared to work every week, to the level of intensity needed by a top team? I’m not sure he was.
He’s the only player I’ve ever seen try and beat a player without moving the ball. He’s the only player I’ve ever seen be more worried about his hairband than defending. He’s also an addition to a frustratingly long list of French wingers who could be brilliant on their day. Maxi was a shining light for two years, but was he Ben Arfa (no), was he Robert (no), Ginola (no)?
All players have their party pieces but if we are honest for most of his career ASM was the party piece. Think Lua Lua twenty years on.
He leaves with our thanks for keeping us going under Bruce but a nod to his level of ability meaning he isn’t gracing the Champions League … again.
STEPHEN ORD / @smord84