Aleksandar Mitrovic says he was “angry” at being dropped by Steve McClaren – and was determined to hit back on the pitch.
The striker came off the bench to score Newcastle United’s equaliser in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
Mitrovic, signed in the summer from Anderlecht, had been axed by head coach McClaren after the club’s home defeat to Leicester City last month.
The 21-year-old didn’t make it off the bench against Liverpool and Crystal Palace, with McClaren believing he had been affected by a “bad time” on international duty with Serbia.
Mitrovic was reportedly involved in a bust-up with a team-mate after a 4-1 defeat to Czech Republic last month.
“I was angry because I spent two games on the bench – and I wanted to show that I deserved to play,” he said.
Mitrovic was sent on in the 72nd minute at White Hart Lane with Newcastle trailing to a first-half Eric Dier goal, and he netted less than two months after making it on to the pitch.
He scrambled the ball over the line to set up a dramatic finale.
Ayoze Perez, Mitrovic’s fellow substitute, claimed all three points with a stoppage-time strike.
Mitrovic was unhappy at being left out of the starting XI, but he kept his counsel out of “respect” for Papiss Cisse – and let his feet do the talking when he got the chance.
“I didn’t say anything because I respect Papiss Cisse,” he said. “He played really well the last two weeks, and he scored against Palace.
“I respect the coach, so I didn’t say anything. I waited for my moment, and it came. It is hard for anyone to be on the bench, but I worked hard and waited for my moment.
“Every game I want to prove myself and I was concentrating on trying to score goals.
“I scored against Man City and against Norwich, and it’s the best feeling when you score and when you win in the last minute.”
Asked about his decision to drop Mitrovic before the Tottenham match, McClaren said: “It was generally viewed that during the international break he kind of had a bad time with Serbia.
“It looked as if he needed to come out of it.”
The Tottenham victory followed an equally remarkable, and unexpected, 2-0 success over Liverpool at St James’s Park.
And relegation-threatened Newcastle are now two points clear of the drop zone ahead of Saturday’s hugely-important home game against basement club Aston Villa.
Remi Garde’s side are rock bottom with just six points from 16 games, but it is the kind of fixture United have struggled to take advantage of in recent seasons.
The challenge for Newcastle is to stay out of the bottom three and climb the table.
“We have had two wins in a row, and we have to continue this form,” said Mitrovic, whose goal tally for the season stands at three.
“It’s a long season and we need to work hard and prepare for every game like we did this one.
“We were under a lot of pressure after two bad results against Leicester and Palace. We were disappointed, because we know we have the quality to play good football and to be in the top 10.
“We don’t know why we lost those games in that way.
“We changed our mentality. The gaffer spoke a lot with the players and we showed that we have got the ability to play against big teams and change the game.
“Against Leicester we were 1-0 down and we didn’t do anything to change it, but we showed we could change the game.”
Mitrovic feels United – who had been hammered 5-1 by Crystal Palace on their last visit to London – have now set a benchmark for the rest of the season.
“This season we have had a lot of ups and downs,” he said.
“Against teams at the bottom we haven’t played like we have against teams from the top five.
“We need to change that and to play every game like we did against Man City in the first half, like how we did against Chelsea, and like we did (against Tottenham).
“We need to press and to play football because we have very good players who know how to play.
“We need to use that and play every game like this.”