Yohan Cabaye’s introduction from Newcastle United’s bench nine days ago split St. James’ Park in two.
As the Frenchman jogged onto the field in the 65th minute against Fulham, half of the stadium rose to its feet and applauded. The other half remained seated and vehemently booed his arrival.
In the Newcastle Evening Chronicle recently, legendary Toon forward Malcolm Macdonald accused Cabaye of getting it wrong when he refused to play in his club’s opening pair of fixtures against Manchester City and West Ham.
His stance was prompted by a £10 million offer from Arsenal, as reported by David Ornstein at BBC Sport. By the time the transfer window closed last week, however, the Gunners had signed Mesut Ozil, and Cabaye remained with the Magpies.
Macdonald insists the former Lille man has damage to repair with the club’s supporters following his self-imposed strike, and some of the crowd’s response during the Fulham game would seem to back this up.
But above all else, on his day Cabaye remains one of the best players on United’s books and a potential match-winner from the middle of the park.
Despite the furor surrounding his actions, which seemingly cost him a place in France’s squad for their World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Belarus, it is Newcastle’s next fixture that will reveal all.
Cabaye is fully expected to be on the team sheet when manager Alan Pardew names his matchday squad for this Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa, and his likely involvement could be crucial.
Crucial because the travelling fans’ response to the playmaker will indicate whether or not he has been forgiven. But perhaps more importantly, crucial to United’s hopes of emerging from the Midlands with all three points.
The corresponding fixture last season saw Cabaye score a sublime effort from distance, helping the Geordies return to Tyneside with a vital 2-1 win.
In that very same game, Moussa Sissoko made his debut for Pardew’s side after his January move from Toulouse.
And it is the 24-year-old—who played in Cabaye’s customary central midfield role for France against Georgia—that might stand in his teammate’s way once more.
Sissoko’s performance for Les Bleus, much like in the second half against Fulham, was a throwback to his early form in a black and white shirt, when he scored three goals in his first four league games.
Coupled with two excellent shifts from Vurnon Anita in recent weeks, it may be that Cabaye has to wait before reclaiming his spot in United’s starting XI along with Cheick Tiote.
All will become clear at Villa Park at the weekend, but in the meantime, what do you think? Should Yohan Cabaye walk straight back into the team? Let us know via the comments section below.