KEVIN Mbabu is working hard to build himself a bright future at Newcastle United - after coming through a “dark season”.
The teenage defender has endured an injury-interrupted campaign at the club.
But the 18-year-old - who had a spell out with a hamstring problem earlier in the season - recently returned from an ankle injury.
And Mbabu, signed from Swiss club Servette in January last year, is now focused on finishing the season strongly before he reports for duty with Switzerland’s Under-19s next month.
“It’s really good to be back,” Mbabu said.
“I missed two or three months of the season. The first injury was a hamstring, and the second one was torn ligaments in my ankle.
“It’s been a dark season. So now I have few weeks left to play games.”
Mbabu - who has featured in three of Newcastle’s last four Under-21 Premier League games - feels he is stronger mentally and physically for his experiences this season.
“I have come back stronger,” said Mbabu.
“I have to be patient. When I start, I have to show what I can do. I have to keep working.”
A number of Mbabu’s Under-21 team-mates have been involved in the first-team squad in recent weeks, and striker Adam Armstrong made his Premier League debut last month.
However, having missed so much football through injury, Mbabu - who can play in central defence or at right-back - is just focused on staying fit.
“I’m not thinking about the first team,” he said.
“I’m just thinking about getting fit. I’m just frustrated at the season.
“Now my injuries are behind me, and I’m looking forward to the future. I’m happy at Newcastle.”
Switzerland’s Under are looking to qualify for the European Under-19 Championships in July.
Mbabu and his colleagues must navigate through the Elite Round - where they face Cyprus, Georgia and Israel - to qualify for the tournament proper, which is being staged in Hungary in July.
“The national team have qualified (for the Elite Round),” he said. “I want to be fit for this as well.”
United’s Under-21s, beaten 3-2 by Southampton at the St Mary’s Stadium on Thursday, are next in action on April 14, when Manchester City visit Whitley Park for the club’s penultimate league game of the season.