Allan Saint-Maximin: Newcastle's new No 10 using Twitter for good
French winger visits Newcastle food bank after social media exchange; "If people see players [in the community], they might be happy"
By James Dale
Last Updated: 22/08/19 8:29am
Allan Saint-Maximin caused a social media storm when he played while wearing a Gucci headband at former club Nice - now a growing trend of online abuse towards footballers threatens a boycott. But Newcastle's new No 10 wants to use Twitter for good.
Representatives from Manchester United and Kick It Out will meet with Twitter within the next few weeks to discuss the racist abuse aimed at Paul Pogba after he missed a penalty in Monday night's game with Wolves.
The incident came less than a week after Tammy Abraham received similar abuse following the UEFA Super Cup final, and prompted England Women head coach Phil Neville to call for a player boycott of social media.
Saint-Maximin has no plans to stop using the platform though. The £20m signing is an instant hit with the Toon Army's online following. One recent video he posted of a child trampolining in Newcastle's Metro Centre received almost 4,000 likes.
Why can't I talk to fans?
"It's my character," the 22-year-old tells Sky Sports News. "I am a normal person, why can't I talk with the supporters?
"I can talk normally, do some jokes - I do a lot of jokes! For me, it's good. I know I am a footballer, it's my job, but life is good and it's short. I want to enjoy it."
A tongue-in-cheek tweet saw him ask for his trademark Gucci headband to be included on his profile on FIFA 19 earlier this year. But it is not just one-way traffic on Saint-Maximin's social media timeline. When fans and volunteers at the West End Food Bank reached out to the Frenchman online, he was happy to give up his spare time to visit.
He presented the charity with a signed Newcastle home shirt to be used for a fundraiser, chatted to staff, and was making cups of tea.
COMMUNITY: Newcastle forward @asaintmaximin made a visit to the @nufcfoodbank today to show his support for the food bank.— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) August 21, 2019
There will a donation point available at Strawberry Place before the Magpies' @Carabao_Cup clash against @LCFC on Wednesday, 28th August at 5pm. #NUFC pic.twitter.com/C2iyNkP1kn
"I love doing this," says Saint-Maximin, who was born to Haitian parents in Paris' south-west suburbs. "A lot of people don't have much money, I know this because I started out like this.
"I'm happy to be here to help, give some food, to talk.
"Some people think you are different, but for me, the money is nothing. The relationship is really important for me. I am normal and I love to come to this place to talk with a lot of people."
Food banks have become part of the furniture on match days at St James' Park since the 'NUFC Fans Food Bank' movement began successfully collecting donations from supporters before kick-offs.
'Every game is like a final'
Former France U21 international Saint-Maximin is eager to immerse himself in the local community in the North East, and not just those inside the ground.
"A lot of people can't come to the stadium every week," he adds. "But if they see players [in the community], they might be happy.
"I come here to help because when you see the face, the smile, for me it's really important."
After years of austerity at Newcastle, owner Mike Ashley allowed the club to spend more than £60m this summer. The £40m signing of Joelinton meant the club broke their transfer record for the second time in less than 12 months - following the arrival of Miguel Almiron in January for £21m.
But Newcastle are yet to earn a Premier League point since Rafa Benitez left for China, to be replaced by Steve Bruce.
Winger Saint-Maximin - more inconspicuous in his current all-black headband - is expected to bring flair to in attack. But as he has shown in his community work, he is not afraid to muck in for the greater good.
"We know the Premier League is tough," he says. "Every game is like a final. You have to work hard."