The city of Newcastle houses some of the most handsome Georgian architecture in England, probably the finest outside Bath. When Yohan Cabaye arrived from France two years ago he appeared to fall in love with his new habitat. "It's pretty here, like Lille," enthused the midfielder, detailing how much he enjoyed life on Tyneside.
Such sentiments may have been sincere but, rather like a party guest constantly scanning the room for someone more interesting to talk to, Cabaye began believing he could do better than Newcastle United. It seems he has regarded Alan Pardew's team as a mere stepping stone from Lille to a bigger club. Somewhere like Arsenal. His difficulty is that Arsène Wenger seems reluctant to pay more than £12m, while Newcastle want £20m, and he has three years left on his contract.
Attempting to push through the move, Cabaye has effectively gone on strike. While careful to avoid stating explicitly that he will not play, he has forced Pardew to amend provisional team sheets for the defeat at Manchester City on 19 August and Saturday's draw with West Ham by explaining Arsenal's bid had traumatised him psychologically, so he was incapable of fulfilling his midfield duties.
Although Cabaye, an influential figure in Newcastle's largely Francophone dressing room, continues to train, he did not attend Saturday's match, so missed hearing the stadium echo to chants of his name from still-adoring fans. Caught in the middle, Pardew is, unfairly, being described as "weak" for omitting him. Yet by refraining from spelling out the situation, he is protecting the France international.
To publicly state the player is digging his toes in would risk burning too many boats for Cabaye, should Arsenal fail to meet the asking price before the transfer window's closure. As things stand, Newcastle supporters, depressed by an overreliance on optimistic long, high balls that, on Saturday were never going to stick to Papiss Cissé, would probably forgive Cabaye. After all, his eye-of-the-needle passing range might just have eluded a well-organised West Ham defence marshalled superbly by James Collins.
On those occasions when Vurnon Anita, Moussa Sissoko, Sylvain Marveaux and Hatem Ben Arfa passed and moved the ball along the ground, Newcastle looked promising. Granted, Sam Allardyce's players spurned three decent headed chances but Yoan Gouffran would have sealed victory for Pardew had he not missed a stoppage-time sitter.
"Cabaye gives us that final killer dagger to the heart of a pass," said Newcastle's manager. "We have to replace that if he's going to go but we're still not sure either way. I think this week is probably a good time to get that situation resolved but we need a little bit more if we lose Cabaye."
Considering the extent of Joe Kinnear's struggles in the recruitment sphere since being appointed Newcastle's director of football this summer, Pardew should not hold his breath.
Kinnear was not around to see the unfurling of a banner declaring: "Joe Kinnear the clown of the Premier League" but Kevin Nolan was impressed by the crowd's enduring loyalty to a team and a manager under increasing pressure from assorted angles.
"The fans were absolutely fantastic for Newcastle," said the West Ham midfielder, once Pardew's popular captain on Tyneside. "They're going to be needed because it's been tough for the players and for Alan. They've got enough talent in the squad to do OK but the lads have got to stick together in that dressing room."
Man of the match: James Collins (West Ham)