SIEM de Jong is working hard to be in top fitness for the start of the season – after battling back from a collapsed lung.
The Newcastle United new boy has proved an instant hit for the Magpies after his £6m move from Ajax this summer.
De Jong – who could face Malaga in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, tomorrow (2.30pm kick-off BST) – netted a spectacular strike against Oldham Athletic in the club’s first pre-season game, before following it up with a goal against Sydney on their New Zealand tour.
However, he only lasted 30 minutes of the Magpies’ second game of the trip, against Wellington Phoenix, before limping off with a toe injury.
And now he’s hoping to shrug off that problem to continue building up his fitness after suffering a terrible spell of injuries last season with Ajax.
As well as the collapsed lung, De Jong was hit by hamstring problems which meant he was never really able to get a good fun of games and find top form, culminating in him missing out on a place in Holland’s World Cup squad.
“It was quite scary,” said the 25-year-old of his lung problems.
“It happened at the beginning of the season, and after the collapsed lung I had to be in bed for a couple of weeks.
“Looking back, afterwards we didn’t focus enough on my entire body and focused too much on the lung.
“The lung was good after three weeks, and the rest of the body just wasn’t strong enough to play games, and that’s what we forgot a little.”
The problems of his last campaign with Ajax have made de Jong even more determined to get a good pre-season under his belt with Newcastle.
The attacker began his own fitness programme more than a month ago, training on his own for a week before doing two weeks with Ajax prior to joining Newcastle.
“During the season I had some other small injuries which was part of not being strong enough,” he added.
“But I think I trained the last half of the year really hard at Ajax, and now I need a good pre-season to build up strength.
“That’s what I missed a little bit last year, so it’s an important time for me to hopefully be stronger than I was.”
De Jong didn’t travel to South Yorkshire for Wednesday night’s friendly against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, which was decided by a second-half goal from summer signing Ayoze Perez.
United manager Alan Pardew also left captain Fabricio Coloccini behind on Tyneside.
Meanwhile, the Malaga game, and Sunday’s fixture against host club Schalke 04, will be screened live by Quest TV.
– ROSS GREGORY