AFTER a couple of knockout blows, Shane Ferguson is finally starting to punch above his weight at Newcastle United.
The man hailed as an Irish “man of steel” by James Perch last week is set to return to the starting XI for the trip to Club Brugge, and will be looking to consolidate on the advances of his Continental adventures in Belgium.
And despite his diminutive frame, Ferguson is one tough cookie. Bouncing back from two serious injuries to finally make his mark on the Newcastle first team, he will be handed the left midfield role at the Jan Breydal Stadion with a licence to roam again.
He is also hoping to finally swat aside concerns about his physique, having worked hard to improve over the summer.
He said: “Yes, I was put on a diet, but it’s hard to put on weight! I’m working hard with the fitness coach and I think I’m getting bigger and stronger now. I’m getting fitter and looking forward to playing more games.
“Playing in Europe is where I want to be. It is a dream come true and I’m just happy to get any kind of opportunity but to represent Newcastle and to be part of this club’s proud tradition in Europe is exactly what I want. I’m delighted to have had my chance and now it is just about pushing on.
“I’m really grateful to be back in the squad. I’m delighted to get a chance because this is a big year: I’m fit and injury-free. I’ve had too many injuries at tough times really.
“Last season they came at the wrong time, when I just felt like I was getting an opportunity. And then when you don’t get a pre-season you’re always playing catch-up and it’s really tough.”
Ferguson will be deployed in an advanced midfield role tomorrow, backed up by close friend Davide Santon. Alongside him, the Northern Ireland international has been making the most of an opportunity to be pushed forward.
He said: “In training I’ve been working on crosses and delivery for a while. Steve Stone has been taking me for extra sessions and the big thing that I was looking to improve was to try and get more assists and to have more of an impact going forward.
“I’m absolutely delighted that I’ve been able to do that to some extent.”
:: We're running a short survey about how users consume football content online - tell us about your habits, likes and dislikes by clicking this link. http://www.clicktools.com/dashboard/survey/response.jsp