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Olivier Bernard

Ask your average Newcastle fan about Olivier Bernard, and the chances are you'll be met with a blank look. One of Bobby Robson's low-profile signings, Bernard arrived at United in September 2000 on a free transfer from Olympique Lyonnais, at a time when there were a host of other French players at St.James'.

However, things began to go wrong for the youngster almost from the beginning, as Lyon refused to release his international registration. Their gripe was that they'd nurtured Bernard through their youth system, although he'd never played a first team game, and then lost him to United when the player turned down a new contract upon the expiration of his previous deal. With the registration issue in the hands of the football authorities, Bernard was only allowed to turn out in non-competitive games, and accordingly a number were arranged at the club's Chester-le-Street training base.

Bernard featured at left back against Hartlepool in mid October, impressing onlookers with his forward runs in a 5-0 victory, but was forced to limp off the field a few days later in another behind-closed-doors friendly against Bolton. A knee problem then sidelined him until November, when he returned to training and his registration was at last received by Newcastle.

He finally made his competitive Newcastle debut at left back for the reserve side on a chilly December night in deepest Lancashire. Final score from the St.Helen's rugby league ground was Liverpool reserves 1 Newcastle reserves 1 and commented on his debut  

"The introduction of new left back Olivier Bernard certainly livened up that flank for United, and his performance included some immaculately timed and executed tackles, astute passes and a mazy dribble and shot that almost brought a winning goal.

"However, Bernard also planted a defensive header well short of Karelse, gifting Liverpool the opening goal and does look a little on the chunky side. The less said about his attempts to take throw ins the better (four tries, all foul throws.) Nevertheless, there's definitely something about him that deserves a second look...".

After this game, Olivier played for the reserves on another six occasions without pulling up any trees, and by the time Liverpool made the return trip to Tyneside in March, was forced to watch the game from the stand after Darlington had expressed an interest in borrowing him. Not having been in the country that long, Olivier was initially mystified by precisely who Darlo were, and had to be shown where it was on a map by Bobby Robson! He was rather less than pleased with the idea, but allowed himself to be persuaded and when reappeared in the bar at the reserves a few weeks later looked far happier with life.

Now Olivier finds himself facing an uncertain future at Newcastle, with his one season deal due to expire. Since he arrived on Tyneside, his fellow countrymen Charvet, Domi and Goma have all been sold by Bobby Robson. leaving him the sole representative of the World Champions at United. The odds must be that he'll be moving on soon. If he's remembered at all, it'll probably be for his shaggy dog hairstyle, reminiscent of dodgy 80's funk bands, Lenny Henry creation "Delbert Wilkins" and one-time Villa winger Tony Daley.


Page last updated 24 June, 2009