Vurnon Anita has had a harsh introduction to the Premier League, but he is learning fast. Chief sports writer Mark Douglas reports
WHATEVER it is that Vurnon Anita needs to add to his game to make his mark in the Premier League, it is not confidence.
Inspired by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s sumptuous scissor-kick against England in the week, the Holland midfielder was asked what the best goal ever scored was. His answer was as quick as the Swede’s instincts in Stockholm.
“My own against Brugge! That was very good,” he said, with a glint in his eye.
Anita may stand at 5ft 6in but he is no shrinking violet. Polite, poised and boasting word-perfect English, the former Ajax man confronts questions about his mixed start in black-and-white head on.
Yes, he confesses, the English game’s physicality has made it tough for him to make an immediate impact. But, he stresses, he is working hard to build up his upper body strength in order to stamp his authority on the Newcastle team soon.
“I expected it to be like this,” he says. “I think I played a couple of games and it was good but for me, I must do extra work for myself, out of the training to become stronger and help me play more games. I am in the gym a lot and running all the time. That is after the main training, or even in the mornings before training. It is the work that I have to do.”
Anita would not be the first player to arrive on these shores with a sparkling reputation and stumble in his first few weeks. There are plenty of examples of it through the years and Newcastle are no strangers to slow-burning imports.
A few years back we would have held José Enrique up as a player who got better and better, but this year’s star performer, Davide Santon, is a more pressing example of the benefits of reserving judgement until a player has got his feet under the table.
There will certainly not be any worries about Anita off the field. He has moved his partner and their young daughter to the North East and lists his interests as his family and football.
You might add a third ‘f’ word to the mix – focus. He has clearly thought deeply about the differences between the Premier League and the Eredivisie, and insists that lazy talk about his lack of stature being the reason for his slow start are not correct.