VURNON Anita is aiming high next season – and wants European football back on the menu at Newcastle United.
An awful downturn in form after the turn of the year saw Newcastle’s Europa League hopes disappear last term, with Alan Pardew’s side eventually finishing 10th.
That came after a season which saw United reach the quarter-finals of the Europa League in what was Anita’s first year at St James’s Park.
Much of that campaign was hit by claims the Europa League had taken its toll on Newcastle’s small squad, with the Magpies going on to finish 16th in the Premier League.
There were also suggestions that the financial benefits of playing in the competition were not rewarding enough, but Anita says that, for the players, European football is of vital importance.
The Dutch midfielder – who could be involved against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough tonight (7.45pm kick-off) – feels Newcastle have the quality to compete for a Europa League place again next season – despite admitting it will be “difficult”.
He said: “I think European football is good for the club.
“It’s good for the club to be out there and for everybody to see what Newcastle is about.
“We’re going to work hard for it next season.
“We know it is going to be difficult, but we will see.”
Anita’s former Ajax team-mate Siem de Jong said after signing for Newcastle earlier this month that he is aiming for Champions League qualification next term.
The Europa League is a far more achievable target, though, and Anita is wary about setting unrealistic goals.
He added: “I think we need to continue the way we have been and improve step-by-step.
“We shouldn’t put the bar too high and not too low.
“We need to work hard and see where we are.” Anita is about to start his third season on Tyneside after joining from Ajax in 2012.
After initially finding it difficult to adapt to the Premier League, Anita has become increasingly influential, and only missed four league games last season.
Anita – who played in the Champions League with Ajax – has enjoyed his time at Newcastle so far, and insists he embraces the physical side of the English game.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here so far very much,” Anita continued.
“The Premier League is a big competition and very hard to play in. You must give 100 per cent in every game to stand a chance, and it’s nice to be involved in such an intense competition.”
Meanwhile, the arrival of right-back Daryl Janmaat from Feyenoord earlier this month means the club – whose No1 goalkeeper is Holland international Tim Krul – now has four Dutchmen on its books.