Penalty shootout success, sharing a dressing room with Robinho and a '˜bad decision' '“ Newcastle's loan players have stories to tell
The January transfer window saw a number of Newcastle United player heads out on loan, the biggest of which was Aleksandar MitrovicÄ‡ to Fulham. It took the number of loans out to a dozen.
With the majority of European leagues heading into their final straight, the Gazette takes a look at how each player is faring at their respective clubs.
Achraf Lazaar (Benevento)
“Coming here was a bad decision.” In six words the Moroccan summed up his season with Serie A strugglers Benevento. He has played fewer minutes this season than he did last campaign when Newcastle won the Championship. He last entered the field for a minute in a loss to Sassuolo in November.
Since then he has posted a cryptic Instagram message. He has been cut from Benevento’s squad, but has now eyed a move to MLS as he looks to earn his place in Morocco’s World Cup squad this summer.
Freddie Woodman (Aberdeen)
The Under-20 World Cup winning goalkeeper is down the pecking order at St James’s Park, despite a burgeoning reputation.
The 21-year-old returned to Scotland, signing for Aberdeen in the Scottish Premiership, where he has a good reputation after a productive spell on loan at Kilmarnock last season.
He’s had an instant impact, becoming the hero during a penalty shoot-out in a Scottish Cup quarter-final replay. Fans have been impressed with the player’s presence despite being so young. However, Aberdeen No 1 Joe Lewis is approaching full fitness.
Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham)
With Islam Slimani still to play a single minute, Newcastle fans have had to witness Mitrovic take the Championship by storm with Fulham after a WhatsApp-aided move. He has instantly become a cult hero at Craven Cottage with his passion and, of course, goals.
Seven have been plundered in nine unbeaten games, with the goals amounting to winning six points. He’s been described as “quality” and an “animal”, playing as if he has had a point to prove. The Cottagers play attacking football and create plenty of chances but lacked a regular goalscorer in attack, the Serbian has given them just that as well as a physical focal point.
Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock)
The Scottish defender has had a productive season north of the border. One of the key aspects of a loan move is game time and it is something which Findlay has been afforded. He initially struggled as Kilmarnock struggled, playing both at centre-back and left-back.
Under Steve Clarke he has continued to progress and built up a robust partnership at the centre of the Killie defence. In recent weeks he has delivered a number of assured displays, including a clean sheet in a win away to Rangers. He will leave Newcastle in the summer.
Matz Sels (Anderlecht)
The Belgian left Newcastle in the summer to give himself the best chance of making his country’s World Cup squad. So far so good, with the 26-year-old having been called up for Belgium’s most recent friendly with Saudi Arabia. Whether he will win the battle to become Belgium’s third-choice keeper at the tournament ahead of Woolfsburg’s Koen Casteels will depend on form between now and the end of the season.
Sels has been in and out of the team, sitting on the bench in four different spells in the league. Since a 5-0 defeat to Club Brugge in December he has been an ever-present, yet without a clean sheet since January.
Jack Colback (Nottingham Forest)
The player was clearly not in Rafa Benitez’s plans, banished to train with the Under-23s for the first half of the season until he moved to Forest in January.
Under former Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka he has become key member of the side, sitting as a holding midfielder in the 4-2-3-1. The Forest boss is keen on his players keeping it simple and short with Colback registering a pass completion percentage of 91.08%, putting him in the top 10 of the Championship.
A performance in a 5-2 win over QPR earned rave reviews from Forest fans keen for the player to make the move permanent. He doesn’t have a future at United under Benitez.
Rolando Aarons (Hellas Verona)
It has been a trying 18 months for the winger. Out injured for a large part of it, Aarons has simply wanted to play football. He was impressive in pre-season, but his Premier League exposure amounted to 137 minutes, leading to the move to Italy.
The 22-year-old took the brave step to move abroad for game time rather than the easier choice of dropping back down to the Championship. There was a connection in head coach Fabio Pecchia who worked at Newcastle previously. Aarons impact has been minimal with Hellas in 19th, three points from safety.
He’s only been involved in one win, coming off the bench for five minutes. Looking back it may not have been the wisest move considering the club’s predicament and his desire for regular football.
Henri Saivet (Sivasspor)
One of the biggest surprises of the Newcastle season so far was the appearance of Saivet in the starting line-up against West Ham in December – his third league start since February 2016. He cost the side a goal but redeemed himself with a goal of his own. Strangely, he was omitted from the squad thereafter until making the move to Turkey.
Joining late in the January window sees players up against it when trying to integrate and Saivet has started just two games – substituted at half-time in one. His impact has been negligible. No goals and no assists. But he does count Robinho as a team-mate.
Daniel Barlaser (Crewe Alexandra)
Barlaser is an example in why it is best choosing a loan move wisely. Like Aarons, he moved to a club embroiled in a relegation battle and with jobs on the line managers often go for players who are tried and trusted. Barlaser has made just four appearances.
The 21-year-old has appeared for more minutes for the Newcastle’s Under-23s since his loan move. With nine points between Crewe and the relegation zone, the midfielder will be hoping for a run of games in the final couple of months of the season.
Jamie Sterry (Crewe Alexandra)
The 22-year-old has had a more productive time of it than colleague Barlaser. Sterry has had to battle through his injury issues but after garnering plenty of minutes for the Under-23s in the first half of the season, he made the move to competitive action for the second half.
He has been a useful addition, playing in three positions as the club have edged away from the relegation zone.
Adam Armstrong (Blackburn Rovers)
“It didn’t work out the way I wanted”. Armstrong was honest about his loan move to Bolton Wanderers in the first half of the season where he had plenty of opportunities but was played out of position; as a defensive winger according to the Under-20 World Cup winner.
He made the decision to move down to League One in January, and it is a move which has been rewarded with a return to a more natural attacking role where he is capable of making runs in behind the defence. No player has a better goals ratio than Armstrong, 0.7 goals per 90 minutes.
He’s netted seven times, won the League One February player of the month as Rovers push for promotion. He still dreams of following in the footsteps of his childhood hero Alan Shearer and scoring for Newcastle.
Ivan Toney (Scunthorpe United)
The 22-year-old has had numerous loan spells away from Newcastle. In the first half of the season he contributed to Wigan’s strong start, scoring twice and assisting three times in his first five outings. But he couldn’t break into the starting XI on a regular basis.
A return to Scunthorpe United for a second loan spell at Glanford Park followed in January. He was well liked from his first spell and has become a regular feature in the first-team. He’s netted four times but is most memorable moment came when he argued with the penalty taker over who should take a spot-kick only for the penalty taker to miss. Manager Graham Alexander had a stern word with the player for his role in the incident.