Olivier Bernard

#52373917 / gettyimages.com

Olivier Bernard is a former French footballer who was born in Paris on 14th October 1979. Bernard started his career with Lyon as a winger, but was later converted into a left full back. He joined Newcastle in 1997 after completing a three year training contract with his former club. The move sparked controversy in France, because the French Professional Football Charter stated that players aged 16-22 were required to sign with the team they trained with if offered a contract. If they chose not to they would be banned from signing for another French club for three years. Bernard moved to England, but a subsequent French court ruled that he and Newcastle were equally liable to compensate Lyon £48,000, the value of his potential yearly salary at Lyon. Bernard and Newcastle appealed the decision, and the European court of justice in Luxembourg ruled that the French ruling was a restriction of trade. The case had a big impact on future transfers in the game however. The court ruling said that clubs that train youngsters can claim compensation if they sign with another European side in the future. The judgement said "In view of the considerable social importance of sporting activities, and in particular football in the EU, the objective of encouraging the recruitment and training of young players must be accepted as legitimate. In the court's view, the prospect of receiving training fees is likely to encourage football clubs to seek new talent and train young players. A scheme providing for the payment of compensation for training where a young player, at the end of his training, signs a professional contract with a club other than the one which trained him can, in principle, be justified by the objective of encouraging the recruitment and training of young players. The amount of that compensation is to be determined by taking account of the costs borne by the clubs in training both future professional players and those who will never play professionally."

Bernard made his professional debut whilst on loan at Division 3 outfit Darlington in March 2001. He scored twice for the Quakers, the first in a 3-0 win over Shrewsbury on April 10th. He returned to Newcastle in the summer of 2001, and made his debut for the club in an Intertoto Cup win over Lokeren on 21st July 2001. It wasn't until the end of 2001 that Bernard established himself as a regular in Bobby Robson's side. He scored in his first Premiership start on December 15th 2001 in a 2-1 win over Blackburn. Things got even better for the Frenchman later that month. He starred in 3-1 and 4-3 comeback wins at Arsenal and Leeds, and also scored in a 3-0 victory over local rivals Middlesbrough on Boxing Day. Bernard helped the Toon to a 3rd place Premiership finish in 2001/02, and represented the club in the Champions League the following season. The former Lyon man became a firm fans favourite with the St James Park crowd, and was part of the Newcastle side that reached the semi-final of the UEFA Cup in 2004. Bernard fell out of favour when Bobby Robson was replaced as manager by Graeme Souness at the start of the 2004/05 season. According to Bernard Souness told him 'I've got another player to come anyway, I don't think you're that good'.

On 31st January 2005 Bernard signed for Harry Redknapp's Southampton on a five month contract. He made his debut on 2nd February in a 2-1 defeat at Birmingham. Unfortunately, Bernard failed to replicate the form he had shown in his early days at Newcastle. He was largely disappointing, and at fault for a few goals, which contributed towards the team's relegation from the Premiership. His displays in home matches against Everton and Aston Villa were particularly poor. He left the club in the summer of 2005.

On 1st September Bernard signed for Glasgow Rangers, despite reported interest from Premiership clubs Birmingham and Bolton. He made his debut in a Champions League clash with Porto on 15th September. Bernard struggled to hold down a first team spot at Ibrox however, and made just 15 appearances before being released at the end of the season.

On September 1st 2006 Bernard returned to Newcastle on a free transfer, despite the fact he had agreed to join Leeds just days earlier. His second spell in the North East was less successful. Bernard didn't make a single appearance during 2006/07, although did appear as an unused substitute on a few occasions. He was severely hampered by injury, and released by the club for the second time in the summer of 2007.

After leaving Newcastle Bernard had a spell training with MLS side Toronto FC, linking up with former Newcastle team mate Laurent Robert. In November 2010 he joined STL Northern League Division Two outfit Morpeth as a coach, where he worked under manager Trevor Benjamin.