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After arriving at St James’ Park for a hefty fee of £13m in the summer of 2015, there were high expectations resting upon Aleksandar Mitrovic’s shoulders.
The Serbian had been prolific for former club R.S.C Anderlecht, netting 44 times in 90 appearances in all competitions, prompting then-Newcastle-manager Steve McClaren to fork out for the striker as part of his project to attempt to rebuild the Toon.
McClaren was unfazed by the fact that Mitrovic was unproven in the Premier League, stating: “He has [already] had to adapt to a new league and will do so again.”
The striker himself was also eager for a new challenge, adding “There will be pressure here, for sure, but I like pressure.” The stage was then set for Mitrovic to make himself a Geordie hero.
Fiery, but not too prolific
As ‘Mitro’ came with a fiery reputation, his Newcastle career began accordingly as he picked up a booking for a rash challenge only 22 seconds into his debut.
The Serbian’s first season at the Toon was not as prolific as many had hoped, scoring nine goals in 34 league appearances. This was not a bad return considering Mitro was only 20 years old at the time, however the many optimists among the Toon Army would expect more, taking into account the price tag.
Mitrovic did arise with some crucial goals in his first season however, including the winner in a 1-0 victory at home to West Brom, as well as writing himself into Geordie folklore by netting the equaliser in the 1-1 draw at home to arch-rivals Sunderland.
His goals ultimately, were not enough to prevent Newcastle from falling into the second tier of English football.
Not many game minutes allocated under Rafa
With Rafa Benitez as manager and Newcastle in the Championship, Mitro hoped for more opportunities to develop his career at St James’ Park, in addition to helping them back to the Premier League.
The striker had to wait for his break due to a suspension carried from picking up a red card in the last game of the previous season. This, coupled with the fine form on new signing Dwight Gayle resulted in less game time than Mitrovic had wished.
He did not sulk however, and instead he quoted “Maybe last season I played more, but we are in good shape”, acknowledging that it was a collective effort and the team was more important.
This mentality and willingness to place the team ahead of him was shared by many other Newcastle players in a similar situation and was crucial in earning Newcastle promotion and winning the Championship at the end of the season.
The Serbian did deliver when called upon however, scoring both in a 2-1 win at Preston as well as the winner in the 1-0 victory at Wolves.
Mitrovic does not simply bring goals to Newcastle United, his hold up play, strength as well as his passion and love for the club can all be factors of the Serbian being an important player for Newcastle in the future.
In need of more game time
Mitrovic finished his second season with six goals in 29 appearances, which is a lot less in both departments than many had expected. As a young player, game time is needed.
With Newcastle now in the Premier League and manager Rafa Benitez rumoured to be interested in a new striker, a loan move may be ideal at this stage of Mitrovic’s career.
This would provide a chance for the Serbian to play week in week out and showcase his talents as well as constantly learning; be it at another Premier League club or anywhere else.
Mitro would no doubt improve as a player and, if returning to Newcastle, Rafa Benitez will almost certainly help develop him further and hopefully bring the best out of the fanatical Serbian, while fans will hope to sing “Mitro’s on fire” on plenty more occasions.
Written by Dawud Arshad
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