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Warning - long article!

 

Antoine Sibierski: 'I never felt any confidence from Stuart Pearce last year... but for Glenn Roeder I could go on and on'

 

 

It has been one of the stories of the season: Antoine Sibierski's transformation from Manchester City misfit to Tyneside hero.

 

Simon Rushworth spoke to him about managerial shortcomings and footballing friendships

Published: 03 March 2007

 

 

The list is endless when considering the Newcastle United forwards who have suffered the wrath of the Gallowgate masses for failing to match the impeccable standards set by Messrs Gallacher, Milburn, Macdonald and Shearer. However, the majority have, at the very least, been afforded a week or two to find their feet before feeling the full force of Geordie frustration. Not so Antoine Sibierski.

 

The unfortunate Frenchman was pilloried by sections of the St James's Park faithful within hours of finalising a transfer-deadline-day move to Tyneside last August and long before he was finally handed one of the club's famous black-and-white shirts. A year after Newcastle had made Michael Owen their club-record signing, four months after Shearer kicked his last ball for his hometown heroes and just days after the £10m capture of the Nigerian forward Obafemi Martins, the signing of Sibierski went down like a lead balloon. There are some who suggested a lead balloon would actually perform better in the air.

 

"I had just left Manchester City and only heard bad things being said about me there," recalls the 32-year-old. "Some City fans were quick to criticise me and that's all I was thinking about when I signed for Glenn Roeder. I didn't have time to think about what the Newcastle supporters may or may not think.

 

"I was just so hurt by the reaction of the City fans. I have always been an honest player and it was really painful to hear what they were saying about me when I left. I didn't think too much about the fact that Newcastle fans were unhappy with my signing. After the first few days I felt it a little bit. But the feeling disappeared within a few days."

 

Initially aghast at Roeder's recruitmentNewcastle fans were swift to compare Sibierski to such goalscoring nonentities as Rob McDonald, Frank Pingel and Tony Cunningham. In the short term, however, Sibierski was simply relieved to have finally severed his ties with Stuart Pearce.

 

A mild-mannered, considerate and fair man, Sibierski is never more angry or animated than when Pearce's name is mentioned. "I was disappointed with the way things ended at City," he says, barely masking months of simmering bitterness. "I didn't deserve that. Even if, last year, I didn't play very well I always gave everything. I hate to find excuses. Even if you don't do things right you have to find a reason why and you have to accept that. Sometimes it can happen.

 

"But last season I did have excuses. I didn't play regularly because I was injured and when I did play I didn't get a run in my best position. I never felt any confidence from Stuart Pearce last year. It is why, even when I was on the pitch, I was not the real Antoine Sibierski. I was like another player. When you play without confidence you cannot be at ease with yourself and perform to the best of your abilities.

 

"I am still the same player who left City last August but I am a player with confidence this season. If you have the full support of your manager and your club, then you can be a different player."

 

Roeder is the man who has overseen the tranformation in Sibierski's fortunes. He recognised the need for a new work ethic within the lame squad he inherited from his predecessor, Graeme Souness, and saw the Frenchman as a potentially unifying figure. As unselfish as he is unspectacular, the former France Under-21 international has forged a more than useful partnership with Premiership newcomer Martins and the pair have shared 22 goals in their first season together.

 

"Maybe we have surprised many people but I'm not surprised at all because we are two different players and we work together well," says Sibierski, who scored against the Estonians of Levadia Tallinn on his Newcastle debut. "It's simple. I'm tall, he's small. He's quick, I'm not so quick. I'm good in the air and so is Oba. I think our partnership is effective because Oba can feel that when I'm on the pitch with him I'm not going to be selfish. My first idea when I have the ball is to play it into him. He is the main striker for Newcastle and the team wants him to finish as top scorer this season."

 

Sibierski has forged his reputation as the foil throughout a largely unheralded career. Just ask Nicolas Anelka. The Bolton Wanderers forward is one of Sibierski's biggest fans and the feeling is entirely mutual. "He's the same as Oba. He's quick and is a fantastic footballer. Oba and Nicolas are typical strikers and they have to score before me.

 

"I am the kind of player who looks for his scorer as soon as he has the ball. I am not a striker in the sense of scoring 20 goals a season but I love to play around and behind the main man. I'm delighted to be at Newcastle because here the manager understands that is where I am at my best and he recognises I am effective in this position. When I am on the pitch I know the manager has confidence in me. He knows I can score my fair share of goals and he trusts me and believes in me. That's very important as a player to feel that."

 

The criticism of Pearce is so thinly veiled that comes as no surprise to learn that the pair did not discuss the relative merits of a move to Newcastle and that not so much as a handshake was exchanged during a tense parting of the ways. Picturing Sibierski as a sullen rebel without a City cause is difficult, to say the least. His new team-mates describe an amiable family man and a model professional, an energising force and a valuable friend.

 

Friendship is clearly of great significance to Sibierski. "It's important to get to know your team-mates outside of football," he says. He came face to face with his best man, the former Kilmarnock defender Frédéric Dindeleux, when Newcastle tackled Zulte Waregem in the last 32 of this season's Uefa Cup last month. "You have more chances to win trophies as a team if you make an effort to bond together as men. Every player in every position has to feel comfortable with the man alongside him.

 

"I spend a bit of time with Oba off the pitch because he's a good guy who I want to get to know socially. We have had lunch in a few Newcastle restaurants and we often sit together on the team bus or plane and talk about our lives outside football. We are not the best friends in the world - we have only known each other for a matter of months - but we are close.

 

"Oba is a funny man. I like to listen to him talking in his native Nigerian tongue because it's a little bit of English mixed with a little bit of something strange! You can understand odd words but you can't always understand what he's trying to say. Every so often he drifts into Italian and that's when he sounds funniest. On the telephone it is hilarious to hear this Nigerian voice speaking Italian and we're always teasing him about the way he sounds.

 

"The main thing about Oba is that he knows where he has come from. That is important if you are going to understand many things in life and in football. He is a great footballer and has a great life but when he was young he didn't have things easy in Nigeria. Just because he has a lot of money now doesn't mean he will ever forget the time when he was young and poor. That's why he is such a good guy and why he is a very clever man."

 

If Pearce is a high-profile exception, then Sibierski's friends in football far outnumber his enemies. Patrick Vieira is, perhaps, his closest friend of all, even if the respective careers of two outstanding teenage prospects have taken utterly different courses. Where Sibierski has carved out a role as the quintessential journeyman, his childhood acquaintance rapidly became one of the biggest names in world football.

 

"I met Patrick 14 years ago," smiled a wistful Sibierski. "He has never changed. As soon as I met him we felt great together on and off the pitch. I remember I was with my wife, Isabelle, and she wanted to go on holiday but I was playing football. We were in Lille and Patrick was in Cannes and so I asked him if he would welcome Isabelle into his home and look after her.

 

"I hadn't known him for very long then but he said to tell my wife to come down to the South of France and he would look after her for 10 days. He said he would do his very best for her and make sure she had a good holiday. When Isabelle came back she couldn't stop talking about how helpful he had been. She didn't know him very well before the holiday but returned to Lille talking about how she had a met a nice, kind man. After that our friendship blossomed.

 

"It is not only about football with Patrick. Our friendship is about life. When we don't play football during the holidays we like to spend time together in Cannes or wherever we might be during the summer. Even if I don't speak to him for a while he will ring Isabelle to see how she is doing with the children. He's very close to us all. We have been on family holidays but the last time we spent a lot of time together was in June 2005 when Patrick got married. We went to the wedding and had three or four days together in Cannes."

 

Friendship and family, Sibierski readily admits, are the glues which bond a fragmented life shaped by a tough upbringing in France's industrial north and the painful deaths of his mother and grandmother. "My parents didn't have much money but I always thank them for the education and the upbringing that I had," said a father-of-three determined to put football into focus.

 

"I think I am a good person and that is down to my mum and dad. Football makes me very happy but how you conduct yourself and how you are a family man is what matters. Football is not everything. As a child I experienced some good things and some bad things but that is what life is about. You learn more about life through bad things happening. You grow up quicker.

 

"When my grandmother died it hit me hard. Then, when I was 25 and making my name as a professional footballer, my mother died. That was a very unhappy time and I found it very difficult to deal with. Every day I think about her and every day I want to be honest with myself because that's what she taught me. Wherever she is I want my mum to be proud of me - that is my motivation every day."

 

When Newcastle's new cult favourite stepped off the bench to score against Aston Villa on 31 January it was a goal of greater significance than most. "It was the seventh anniversary of my mother's death and I didn't feel like playing football that day. When I scored the goal I was overcome with emotion."

 

Sibierski is looking forward to facing Middlesbrough in this afternoon's Tyne-Tees derby, but admits: "We haven't got the best team out there every Saturday. On paper people could pick a better Newcastle side but we have fought our way into the last 16 of the Uefa Cup and made steady progress in the Premiership despite a terrible injury list. It means a lot to me to be in a team which has shown such character and it means a lot to the other players.

 

"People didn't expect me to be playing every week when I signed for this club. People didn't expect Matty Pattison would be starting a Premiership game at White Hart Lane. People didn't expect Paul Huntington and David Edgar to score their first League goals this season. Perhaps people didn't expect Peter Ramage and Steven Taylor to be the backbone of our defence.

 

"All of those players have helped us to win games and the team spirit is great. We are very happy to live and work together. We look forward to every day in training and that's why we compete so hard for each other on the pitch. It's easy for us to play together because we all want the same thing and that is to win games for Newcastle United when others doubt us. Sometimes I am surprised how much I can give every game. At 32 I feel physically fitter than ever but that is because mentally I am in great shape. For Glenn I could go on and on."

 

As he exchanges schoolboy jokes and knowing glances with his grateful United colleagues it is impossible to imagine Sibierski as a disaffected outcast seemingly lacking respect for one of English football's most talismanic figures. Respect, you see, is at the very root of this endearing Frenchman's philosophy.

 

"It's more and more difficult living in France these days and a lack of respect is the biggest problem. We can see that there is a lot of bad feeling between certain groups. I don't know why. It is surely a better country to be where there are several different cultures and people from around the world. But in France some people don't see it that way.

 

"It would be great if we could stop the prejudice but it isn't happening yet. We have to fight against it and when you are a dad you have to teach your children that it is not fair to hate anyone wherever they might have come from. I think the best thing to teach your children is respect. If you respect everyone, then you will be respected. That's what I teach my children but not everybody does the same."

 

 

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Guest Bramble OG

Wake up Sib, Vieira is shagging your wife!!

 

 

 

"I hadn't known him for very long then but he said to tell my wife to come down to the South of France and he would look after her for 10 days. He said he would do his very best for her and make sure she had a good holiday. When Isabelle came back she couldn't stop talking about how helpful he had been. She didn't know him very well before the holiday but returned to Lille talking about how she had a met a nice, kind man. After that our friendship blossomed.

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Wake up Sib, Vieira is shagging your wife!!

 

 

 

"I hadn't known him for very long then but he said to tell my wife to come down to the South of France and he would look after her for 10 days. He said he would do his very best for her and make sure she had a good holiday. When Isabelle came back she couldn't stop talking about how helpful he had been. She didn't know him very well before the holiday but returned to Lille talking about how she had a met a nice, kind man. After that our friendship blossomed.

 

:lol: That's what I thought too. :lol:

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Guest TampaToon

Wake up Sib, Vieira is shagging your wife!!

 

 

 

"I hadn't known him for very long then but he said to tell my wife to come down to the South of France and he would look after her for 10 days. He said he would do his very best for her and make sure she had a good holiday. When Isabelle came back she couldn't stop talking about how helpful he had been. She didn't know him very well before the holiday but returned to Lille talking about how she had a met a nice, kind man. After that our friendship blossomed.

 

and this didn't help matters any:

 

Even if I don't speak to him for a while he will ring Isabelle...
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Canny lad. But not good enough for NUFC.

 

 

 

who do you think we are?  chelsea?  man united? arsenal? liverpool? 

 

fact is he'd be a good squad player at any other club outside the top 4, and he's been a success here, would be in the top 5 of our player of the season awards

 

some people on here seem to think we're a bigger club than we are

 

not enough people on here seem to want to praise roeder, but well spotted glen

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I can't knock him, he's doing the business. He's not one of the greatest players by any means, but his attitude and work rate is spot on, and you can't argue with the performances he's giving.

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Wake up Sib, Vieira is shagging your wife!!

 

 

 

"I hadn't known him for very long then but he said to tell my wife to come down to the South of France and he would look after her for 10 days. He said he would do his very best for her and make sure she had a good holiday. When Isabelle came back she couldn't stop talking about how helpful he had been. She didn't know him very well before the holiday but returned to Lille talking about how she had a met a nice, kind man. After that our friendship blossomed.

 

:lol: That's what I thought too. :lol:

 

First thing I thought too...

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Nice read and great to hear that the team spirit is so good, but you have to wonder why we only get to see very rare and fleeting glimpses of this 'spirit' out there on the pitch.

 

yeah i agree with that but i cant imagine the fluidity between players is going to be too good when our line up is changing all the time.

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Wake up Sib, Vieira is shagging your wife!!

 

 

 

"I hadn't known him for very long then but he said to tell my wife to come down to the South of France and he would look after her for 10 days. He said he would do his very best for her and make sure she had a good holiday. When Isabelle came back she couldn't stop talking about how helpful he had been. She didn't know him very well before the holiday but returned to Lille talking about how she had a met a nice, kind man. After that our friendship blossomed.

 

:lol: That's what I thought too. :lol:

 

aye, i read it last night and thought that!!  :lol:

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Hopefully he wont be getting much game time next season but im glad he is happy and enjoying his new lease of life as he comes across as a very nice bloke. Someone who works for their money and basically isnt just a flash cunt.

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