The surprising but welcome performance of Kevin Mbabu was one of the big talking points of Saturday’s match against Chelsea.
His very first Premier League experience was up against the reigning champions and players such as Pedro and Hazard.
It can go two ways with younger/inexperienced players, they either are like rabbits caught in the headlights, or they buzz off the occasion and the adrenaline helps carry them through the step up to first team football.
Whatever happens in the future for Kevin Mbabu, he definitely doesn’t fall into the category of being dazzled by the headlights.
In the fans player ratings on The Mag, the Swiss defender was second only to Ayoze Perez, reflecting the mature and spirited display he put in.
This is how Steve McClaren summed up Kevin Mbabu’s Saturday:
“So in all these cases we throw a kid on and didn’t he do well!
“What a game, against Pedro, you are a little bit worried but he handled it and I thought the crowd were fantastic.”
Mbabu turns 21 this season and in June his contract will be up after spending three and a half years at the club.
Steve McClaren inadvertently pointed to a long-term problem at the club that looks to be continuing under him.
Kevin Mbabu only got his chance (out of position) at left-back because as the Head Coach also said over the weekend, they had no other options and so they had to ‘throw a kid on’.
Is Mbabu really ‘a kid’ when he will turn 21 this season?
Plenty of players have been playing week in week out for two or three years in the Premier League by the time they are the Swiss defender’s age.
Kevin Mbabu may now get a few more chances and who knows…the reality though is that without this real desperation brought about by injuries and a small squad, he would never have got on the pitch and quietly released when his contract was up in June.
The Pardew era showed him giving young players virtually no opportunities in the first team.
The club continuing to bring in ‘value for money’ foreign imports such as Gouffran and others, rather than giving players from the academy a chance.
Fraser Forster never played a single first team minute for Newcastle and has gone on to play for England, central defender Remie Streete was still being described as an exciting prospect by the local press right up until the day he left earlier this year, once again without having played a single minute fo first team football.
Others such as winger Kazenga Lua Lua never got a minute of Premier League football, full-back James Tavernier was never given a real opportunity, both doing very well this season at Port Vale and Rangers respectively.
Yes it isn’t the Premier League but who knows where they could potentially end up in a year or two.
You also have to take into consideration that their experience at Newcastle has hampered their development and if they had been given the chances then they would have been far better players.
Rolando Aarons still hasn’t started a Premier League match and I also worry for Adam Armstrong when he comes back from loan, will the buying in of Ivan Toney leave the Geordie striker with another obstacle in his way?
The only time younger players have generally had their ‘chance’ is in cup games, including the Europa League in the past, where a whole bunch of younger/fringe players would be thrown in together, then all left out for the following Premier League match.
Will Streete, Mbabu, Aarons and Armstrong go on to become Premier League players, who knows?
What I do know is that if they never get a proper chance at Newcastle we will never find out if they can do it here.
The default position has usually been to put in older players who have been shown to be not good enough, such as Williamson and Gouffran, rather than give young unproven players such as Streete, Aarons and Mbabu a chance.
You look at a club like Everton and it seems like every other time you see them on TV, they have some unheard of kid such as Stones, Rooney or Barkley making his debut.
A bit like Mbabu against Chelsea, it is typical of Newcastle that rather than a structured introduction to the first team we saw Adam Armstrong last season given his first Premier League start at Old Trafford as a lone striker!
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