VURNON Anita is pushing hard for a regular place in Newcastle United’s first team – after proving he can get physical.
The Dutchman had a quiet first season in England after his arrival from Ajax in July 2012.
The 5ft 6in midfielder showed in glimpses his quality on the ball, but often struggled with the pace and power of the Premier League last term.
However, he has adapted well, and produced some great performances – both starting and cameos from the bench – this campaign.
Magpies boss Alan Pardew puts that down to Anita’s improved physical fitness, and says he’s pushing Yohan Cabaye and Cheik Tiote hard for a regular role in Newcastle’s midfield.
And he says that sort of competition can only be good for the club.
“We’ve looked at Vurn’s stats in training and in his work, and he’s improved physically since he’s been here,” said Pardew.
“I think he’s getting to grips with the Premier League, and he’s pushing hard now.
“That’s what we want. He’s pushing hard to start.
“At the minute, Cabaye and Cheik are back to their very best, so he’s got a tough job.
“That’s a really good area for us.”
Quietly-spoken Anita is not one to go shouting from the rooftops about wanting a place in the team, but instead is letting his feet do the talking in training every day.
And Pardew says the player will get his reward for not being the type to go banging on his door.
“That’s the best way to be, because your manager is going to respect that,” he added.
“Therefore, when his time comes, I’ll stick with him because of that honesty and that commitment to the group.
“It pays you in other ways.
“He’s knocking on the door in training, and trust me, that’s where you want to do it.
“It’s not good banging on my door saying you should be playing. I need to see it on that training ground.
“He’s one of our best at doing that.”
Anita could come into the frame for the visit of Norwich City a week on Saturday, with Mathieu Debuchy suspended.
The versatile Holland international can operate at right-back, and could be another option for Pardew if he doesn’t want to shuffle the rest of his defence around.