Rolando Aarons is relishing the fierce competition for a first team place at Newcastle United - even if it means appearances may be harder to come by for the exciting winger.
The 19-year-old started his first game of the season in the 4-1 win over Northampton Town, helping the side progress to the third round of the Capital One Cup.
And Aarons, who missed most of last season with hamstring and hip injuries, admits playing for the first team still feels like a “dream”.
Aarons impressed against the League Two side alongside the likes of Siem de Jong and Florian Thauvin, who are all now pushing for their first Premier League start of the season against Arsenal this weekend.
But with the club bringing in five new signings this summer, head coach Steve McClaren has a array of attacking talent at his disposal.
Aarons is competing with the likes of Thauvin, De Jong, Gabriel Obertan, Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum for an attacking berth.
But he isn’t worried by the competition facing him, instead, he insists if anything, it is spurring him in on training and helping him to improve.
“It’s good because if you train with good players you will get better yourself,” Aarons told the Gazette.
“I am just trying to get as many games now as I can and try to get back into the fold.
“I’m happy to be back playing again and there were a few positives from the [Northampton game].
“We got through and performed well as a team so we’re happy.
“They pulled it back to 2-1 but I always felt that we were in control of the game.
“It showed when we scored twice in the second half,” added Aarons.
The 19-year-old – who scored two stunning goals on the club’s pre-season tour of the US – is now fully fit and was on the bench for the opening three games of the Premier League season, against Southampton, Swansea City and Manchester United.
After getting his first start of the season in the league cup, Aarons is now looking to be involved against Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in the lunchtime kick-off at St James’s Park on Saturday.
“It’s still a dream for me to be playing for Newcastle,” revealed Aarons.
“I haven’t played that many games.
“I have only been around the first team for around a year now and have not played as much as I would have liked due to injury.
“I haven’t really got used to it in some ways.
“It is a weird feeling - in a good way - to be in the first team squad.”
The England Under-20 international made a stunning first-team breakthrough early last season before succumbing to a series of injuries.
Those setbacks disrupted his progress and he says the overwhelming support from the fans helped him through a tricky period in his young career.
“The fans kept me going when I was injured,” added Aarons.
“They are great to me - they are the best fans in the Premier League.”
Now the winger’s looking to make up for lost time under new head coach McClaren and build on his Northampton appearance.
Aarons was involved in the opening goal after just three minutes, playing the ball back to Massadio Haidara, who whipped in a perfect cross for Thauvin to finish in style - notching his first goal for the club within three minutes of his debut.
Aaron’s added: “I had seen Massadio there before and I knew he was there so I just back-heeled it to him and he whipped in a nice cross for Florian’s first goal.
“He was unbelievable.
“He’s a very good player and you see that in training.
“I hope he does very well and we can look forward to Arsenal.”