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New chapter for forgotten man Xisco

THE utterance from Alan Pardew two weeks ago was just about as damning as anything he has said as Newcastle United manager. "For the first time since I have been here, he has shown signs of life."

Tonight, that player will sit at Pardew's side, most likely as a substitute, but then most parts of Francisco Jimenez Tejada's story have been remarkable, from the moment he was signed in 2008.

Anarchy does not usually follow the £5.7m signing of a Spain U-21 international, but that was Xisco's fate as he and Ignacio Maria Gonzalez Gatti flew into a storm.

Dennis Wise in his role as executive director of football had signed the pair, not the then manager Kevin Keegan. It was the final straw for Keegan and saw demonstrations against owner Mike Ashley at the home game against Hull.

Xisco played and scored, but he faded fairly quickly and only eight appearances followed in the following four seasons, including loan spells at Santander and Deportivo la Coruna.

But then, last month, came the game that drew that comment from Pardew, a hat-trick for Newcastle's U-21 side (as an over-age player; he is 26) against Stoke U-21s. "Maybe there is a happy chapter still to come for me with Newcastle," he said after the match. "In football, these things can happen -- all I can do is try my best."

Tonight, Xisco will be in the Newcastle squad for their Europa League tie at Club Brugge, under his fifth manager at the club, Pardew. He will recognise the situation at Brugge: the Belgian side sacked their manager George Leekens at the weekend.

Club Brugge v Newcastle,

Live, ESPN, 6.0

Irish Independent