NEWCASTLE United’s James Perch admits he flunked French at school – and can’t understand his new team-mates off the pitch.
But the defender’s confident United’s players will be speaking the same language on the field at Villa Park tonight.
Alan Pardew’s relegation-threatened side take on Aston Villa buoyed by five transfer-window signings.
French-speakers Moussa Sissoko, Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran and Massadio Haidara have strengthened a squad which was stretched by a succession of injuries and suspensions this season.
While the club’s squad is now dominated by French and Francophone players, Perch – born in Mansfield – doesn’t think the language barrier will be a problem given the way the likes of Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote were quickly assimilated into the dressing room.
“It is difficult – you can’t have the same kind of general conversation – but little bits and bobs get you by,” Perch SportMail.
“They’ll be having English lessons to make it easier for them and us.
“I’m not very good at French, so they’ll have to speak English! I didn’t take French too seriously at school, so I’m not very good at it.”
The 2-1 home defeat to Reading earlier this month left Newcastle deep in relegation trouble, and added urgency to the club’s efforts in the transfer market.
Sissoko, Yanga-Mbiwa, Gouffran and Haidara, identified by renowned chief scout Graham Carr, have since arrived at St James’s Park, buoying players and fans alike.
“I think that’s what the gaffer was intending to do,” added Perch. “He came out and said we needed quality and depth to the squad, and that’s what he’s done.
“Hopefully, the new signings can come in, do well and get a result for us.
“You can’t question the scouting network – look at the players we’ve brought in.
“There’s Cabs (Cabaye) – who’s an international player – and Cheik, who’s been unbelievable. They’ve produced great players, and I’m sure the new signings will have the same kind of class.”
One thing that has been lacking in recent months is competition, with Pardew having had to field patched-up and youthful teams.
“The main thing with the top teams – like Man U and Arsenal – is that they’ve almost got two squads,” Perch went on.
“They’ve got that many good players. The competition’s there – it keeps them on their toes.
“All the players know if they mess up, cost a goal or play 6/10, someone else can come in.”
Villa are just a point behind 16th-placed United, yet the club – embarrassingly knocked out of both domestic cups last week by lower league opposition – is yet to delve into the transfer market to strengthen a team crying out for experience.
Manager Paul Lambert has boldly put his faith in a young and relatively inexperienced team.
“It’s a massive game for them – they got beat (by Millwall), which makes it bigger,” said Perch. “It’s a massive game for both sides.
“They’ve had a couple of terrible results, really, for a club like Aston Villa, but we’re not looking at their form – we’re looking at our form, and we’re trying to make it better.
“They’ve got a young side, and the thing with young players is that they’ve got no fear. They can pick up results like they did against Liverpool.
“But playing week in, week out is maybe a bit too much for them.
“They’ve had bad results against Bradford and Millwall, and we’ve got to make sure we provide them with another bad result.”