MATHIEU Debuchy is feeling at home at Newcastle United – thanks to the club’s fans.
The defender was pitched into a relegation battle after his arrival at St James’s Park from Lille in January.
Newcastle secured their Premier League status on the penultimate weekend of the campaign.
It’s been a different story, so far, this season, with Newcastle having claimed seven points from their opening four league games.
And Debuchy – who will be in the team which takes on Steve Bruce’s Hull City at St James’s Park tomorrow – is confident United can build on their promising start to the season.
The 28-year-old threw his shirt into the away end at Villa Park after last weekend’s 2-1 win over Aston Villa.
Another 50,000 crowd expected for the Hull game, and Debuchy is grateful for the backing he and his team-mates get home and away.
And he is especially thankful for the welcome he has got since moving to Tyneside.
“The supporters have been absolutely fantastic,” Debuchy said.
“They welcomed me with open arms. To hear your name chanted during a game gives you a huge boost.
“Of course, the fans are very important, especially here at Newcastle. They’re the 12th man on the pitch, as they say.
“For me, at the Villa game, I just wanted to show my appreciation for the fans. To give a shirt away is the least I could do.”
United – who beat Fulham 1-0 thanks to a late Hatem Ben Arfa goal in their last home outing – won just nine league games at St James’s Park last season.
And the club’s form at the stadium needs to improve, admits Debuchy.
“It’s important to win at home,” he added.
“It’s going to be a difficult game - we can’t think it’s going to be easy – but we have to remain ambitious.
“Overall, we’ve done well as a team. We feel very well prepared. We’ve done the right sort of preparation, so I think we’ve got a good chance. We’ve made lots of progress.
“It was an absolutely cracking match (against Villa).
“We did well in the first half, but things slipped a little bit (after the break), but we’ve definitely made progress.”
Debuchy is one of a clutch of Newcastle players hoping to play in next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
A play-off game is likely to stand between France, Debuchy’s country, and the tournament, with Didier Deschamps’s team expected to finish behind Spain in their qualifying group.
And Debuchy isn’t short of motivation for club and country this season with so much at stake.
“Of course, it’s a huge objective for us, but we haven’t qualified yet,” he said.
“It’s always there as an objective for us.”
But first, Debuchy knows he must perform for United, a team Deschamps takes a particularly close interest in given the amount of French players in Pardew’s squad.