ALAN Pardew has admitted summer signing Vurnon Anita has endured a baptism of fire since his arrival from Ajax.
The diminutive £6.7m midfielder has been thrown straight into the heat of Premier League battle in the depths of an ongoing injury crisis when his manager had hoped to nurse him through his early months in English football.
But the 23-year-old, who has also had to fill in at right-back at times, is gradually finding his feet and starting to show the quality in which the Magpies invested.
Pardew said: “He’s had a baptism of fire, really. This really was a year of coming into a good side, being in and out, getting his confidence and finding out what he would bring to the team.
“Unfortunately for him, we haven’t been winning and he has been right in the thick of it almost every week, trying to understand Premier League football.
“I think Stoke was a bit of a shock, but I honestly thought he was one of the best players on the pitch, so he is getting to grips with it.
“But it’s important we get a win for people like Vurnon, who wasn’t here when we were winning games on a regular basis, so it’s different for him.
“We want to get a win and it will help people like Vurnon.”
At just 5’6”, Anita is often dwarfed by opponents in the midfield engine room, and Pardew always knew it would take him time to adapt to the pace and power of the English game.
However, the 51-year-old believes he is coming to terms with that and will ultimately benefit from his tough introduction.
Pardew said: “He’s never had the pressure and aggression that he’s experienced here in any Dutch game, I promise you.
“But he can cope with it and he will get stronger as we go along.”
Pardew will hope the win he wants for Anita comes tonight as Wigan visit St James’ Park to face a side which has lost its last four league games, including the last two on their own pitch.
The manager and his staff have had to work hard to mitigate the psychological effects of that run, but they are keen not to over-burden the players.
Pardew said: “It’s horses for courses, really. We are on a different course at the minute than we were last year.
“We are keeping our real professional heads on and trying to cover all the bases as much as we can without overloading the players.”