Jetro Willems reveals what Georginio Wijnaldum told him about Newcastle United
Jetro Willems had a call to make in the summer.
The defender was being sent out on loan by Eintracht Frankfurt, and he options.
Newcastle United had declared their interest, and, after a conversation with Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum, his close friend and former PSV Eindhoven team-mate, his mind was made up.
St James’s Park it was.
Willems has now found his feet in the Premier League – and he feels he made the right decision.
“Before I came, I had other options,” said the 25-year-old, who this week attended the Newcastle United Foundations’s annual dinner. “I asked him (Wijnaldum), and he said ‘go to Newcastle, (it’s a) great club and you will enjoy it, not only the football but the life outside of it’.”
Willems, playing behind £16.5million summer signing Allan Saint-Maximin, is enjoying the challenge on Tyneside.
“I think the intensity is the big thing to get used to,” said Willems, who has been tipped for a return to the Holland squad. “I was in Germany, and the intensity is high, but here you make a lot of sprints and everything. In every team, they have three or four top players, and everyone can win against everyone. It’s a top competition.
“You know if you play against bottom, you can win or lose, same with the top.”
Willams is also enjoying playing with Saint-Maximin, who wreaked havoc with his pace last weekend as Newcastle beat West Ham United 3-2 at the London Stadium to move up to 15th in the Premier League.
“He, like me, wants to play football, make space,” said Willems, who started his career at Sparta Rotterdam before moving to PSV in 2011. “We can play well with each other.
"We needed the win at West Ham. It was nice to get three points. I’m enjoying it. Now it’s very good. It’s nice to play for Newcastle, a great club and history, of course. It’s a great opportunity.”
Willems – who was a target for Newcastle in the 2015/16 season when Steve McClaren was in charge – was “excited” to finally get a move to a Premier League club.
“I saw Newcastle last year,” said Willems, who. Everyone’s watching the Premier League. I knew it wouldn't be the same, because they switched the trainer, but I was very excited to come.”
Willems has been fielded as a wing-back by Steve Bruce, United's head coach.
“As a wing back you’re everything – defender, winger, midfielder – so I’m used to it,” said Willems, who opened his United account earlier in the season with a stunning strike against Liverpool. “Now a lot of teams play with three or five at the back. It’s interesting.”
Newcastle take on Bournemouth at St James’s Park on Saturday looking to record back-to-back wins for the first time under Bruce, who succeeded Rafa Benitez as manager in the summer.
“It would be good to get a home win against Bournemouth – we’re working on it,” said Willems. “The last game is done, and now we go for Saturday.”
Willems last played for his country three years ago, and there’s talk in Holland about a recall now he has put his injury problems behind him.
“I knew that (question) would come, because everyone is speaking about me and the national squad,” said Willems. “But, for me, it’s not the priority now. I want to enjoy playing, and show I’m capable to do some good things.”
Willems would cost £10million next summer, according to reports in Germany.
Does he want to stay at Newcastle beyond his loan?
“It’s not a big deal now,” said Willems. “We’re in November. It us the 11th game, and we have a long time to go. I don't want to think about it – it’s not my priority.
“Of course, at the end of the season, but now I just want to enjoy football – and get some wins.”
The Foundation’s United as One dinner at St James’s Park celebrated the achievements of people it has worked with in the region – and raised more than £55,000 for its projects.
Willems said: “It’s nice to see a lot of people here involved with the club and working with the club.”
Meanwhile, United goalkeeper Rob Elliot – who hasn’t played a Premier League game since December 2017 – has opened up about his first-team exile under Benitez.
Elliot – who is out of contract in the summer – was brought back into the fold following the departure of Benitez.
“The hardest thing is coming into training with nothing to train for,” said the 33-year-old, who is third choice behind Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow at Newcastle. “I know people say ‘you’re on loads of money’ and stuff, but when you come in every day, you don’t think ‘I’m on loads of money and I should be happy’. You come in and you want to strive, to train, to be involved.
“It’s nearly been two years since I was involved in a matchday squad. I think that’s the thing that frustrates me. The last time I walked out at St James’s was Man City, and I don’t want that to be the last time I walk out at St James’s.
“I didn’t have any concept or idea that that would be the last time I would play for the club.”