Vurnon Anita has had a harsh introduction to the Premier League, but he is learning fast. Chief sports writer Mark Douglas reports
“The competition is very tough, there are many games, but I enjoy that,” he said. “English football is quicker and much more physical than in Holland and it is more direct. It is more the long ball and fight so it is different. But I think I can play that. I have always been a smaller player. It was the same in Holland so my size is not a problem. I am used to being one of the smallest so that means I must be a lot smarter than the taller guys.”
Having watched his former Ajax team-mates create a real stir by slaying Manchester City last month, Anita would be forgiven for feeling a pang of jealousy or regret at leaving the Dutch capital for pastures new.
Newcastle’s Champions League ambitions have stalled for the moment and the prospect of the Magpies joining his old club at Europe’s top table will rest heavily on a nine-day period that sees United face Swansea, Maritimo, Southampton and Wigan.
Anita’s eyes, though, remained trained on the Champions League prize. Allied to his own desire to play more first-team football, he insists that the top four is a valid aim.
“To play many games for myself and as a team, to finish in the top four to play Champions League football,” he said.
“Last year, they almost made it so we must work hard to improve ourselves and reach our goals. It is really tough to do that but a good challenge.”
With mental fortitude, superior ability and a willingness to work, it is difficult to see how Anita will not eventually make an impact in black-and-white.
But there is a need for patience here, and while Anita may be overlooked this afternoon it is no reflection on Alan Pardew’s faith in his £7m summer capture. That remains unshakeable, even if it is underscored by an acknowledgement that he may take time to make the transition.
“Vurnon has had it difficult,” the Newcastle boss said yesterday.
“He has come from Ajax, a team who dominate possession, and he has come to a team that has been struggling for a bit of form. He has been fine for possession and he is having to learn new skills.
“I am in no doubt he will be a success here, but he is finding the transition hard times – just like (Yohan) Cabaye did at times. He is learning all the time.”