Aleksandar Mitrovic is a strange one, in more ways than one.
The lunacy of the Mike Ashley/Graham Carr transfer plan to plug massive Premier League size holes with young relatively inexperienced players from weaker leagues abroad, was maybe best summed up when the Serbian signed from Anderlecht.
A club that had just avoided relegation on the final day of the season and desperate to add more goals, decided to put 95% of that responsibility on a 20 year old with a suspect temperament, who had only played in the Serbian and Belgian leagues…what could possibly go wrong?
Aleksandar Mitrovic scored nine goals in 22 Premier League starts (plus 12 as sub), picked up two red cards and a four game ban to start this Championship season, leaving Newcastle fans waiting to see what would come next.
The expectation being for most supporters, whether the Gayle/Mitrovic partnership would tear this division apart, once the former Partizan forward was free from suspension?
The outcome wasn’t quite what we expected, Mitrovic given single (scoring) start at QPR and Rafa Benitez making clear he had no intention of playing with two out and out strikers, with the United boss believing he needs instead a second striker/midfielder to enable Newcastle to control matches.
The love affair between Newcastle supporters and the number 45 was now a remote one, a distant love as he watched on with Dwight Gayle becoming top scorer in the Championship as United’s lone wolf at the top of Rafa’s formation.
Consecutive man of the match performances and four goals in two matches against Preston have not just fanned the flames of love, they have positively poured paraffin onto Mitro’s fire and set the fans alight once again.
I have to hold my hands up and say I am still not convinced that Aleksandar Mitrovic is all that good. I hope he is but my personal jury is still out.
What I do know though, is that he has got something which Dwight Gayle and countless others haven’t got.
Not sure what name to put on it…but Mitrovic is a real character who so many fans seem to identify with. He’s like a pied piper for the dispossessed, you just know that if he turned up at an event where there were loads of kids, they would go absolutely mental, far more than if any other Newcastle player turned up.
No disrespect to the likes of Jonjo Shelvey or Dwight Gayle but no matter how many brilliant passes or goals, they will, maybe bizarrely, not have that sprinkling of magic that Aleksandar Mitrovic possesses.
Maybe it is the fact that he is a bit of a fragile character and you are never quite sure what you are going to get, what he definitely is though is somebody who just naturally oozes personality and gets people going.
In today’s game where fans and media alike cry out to have more characters in football, only to then condemn anybody who marginally steps out of line, Mitrovic is refreshingly different.
Not sure who I would compare him with from the past but ignoring football ability for a moment and simply on the basis of his character and connection to the fans, I would look at players like Supermac, Gazza and Hatem Ben Arfa, as others who had that certain something.
Whether dancing on the pitch at the end of that 6-0 victory or the way he celebrated his two goals at Deepdale, it would be great if Mitrovic pulled through and his ability ended up matching the character and star quality he undoubtedly possesses when connecting with fans.
To be continued…