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Opinion

He Could Be Mint Eh

1 month ago
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I think we’d all agree the injury crisis of the last few months has been unprecedented, bordering on the ludicrous now.

Now in January we appear to be having a transfer crisis.

We’re looking more and more at our squad and wondering what we can get out of it. Could Fabian Schar be moved into midfield? Are there any other youngsters that can do a Lewis Miley and step up? Could any of our loan players come back into the fold? Is Loris Karius any good upfront?

We’ve called back Isaac Hayden already although that was due to wage issues at Standard Liege and he’s allegedly heading back out on loan. I’d personally be happy to have him play for the next half season. I think he’s a decent player, can fill the number six position and is a much better option than anyone else currently filling the bench spots. If we get a decent half season out of him, it might increase his value come the summer.

The downside with utilising Hayden is it’ll take up a squad place and he’s hardly a stranger to the treatment room himself. Saying that, with Manquillo looking likely to head out and Tonali to be removed from the registration, we should have at least two senior places to fill at the end of the window.

If Garang Kuol had been scoring for fun in Holland, it would have been tempting to bring him back. He would give us a third option in attack, and he wouldn’t fill a squad place, due to his age. Then again, he is playing for the team rooted to the bottom of the league. Could it be better for his development to train and play with better players for a few months?

I spent my new year in Rotterdam. It’s a shame that I was there during Holland’s winter break as I would have no doubt nipped to a Feyenoord game to monitor the progress of young Yankuba Minteh. Of all the players we’ve loaned out this season, he’s the one earning the most positive reviews.

On the 30th of December, I was sat in an Irish Bar having a drink when I noticed a game kicking off between Excelsior and Feyenoord on the TV. It didn’t make any sense as I’d checked the fixtures and there had definitely been no games on during my stay. Both teams are based in Rotterdam, so I wondered if it was maybe a friendly. It was the full match, so I was giving it a bit of attention, but noted early on that our lad wasn’t playing. There was no commentary as music was playing so I gave the game no more than a casual glance every couple of minutes.

As it neared half time, I decided to see if I could find out any information about a friendly. It seemed weird that one would be televised. I checked my phone but couldn’t find any information. There was a meeting between the two sides on the 25th of November. It was 1-1 at this point on the televised game and, when I checked the goal times of the previous game, they tallied up. So, it was just a re-run from earlier in the season. I checked the lineups for the game and, as I’d thought, Minteh hadn’t started.
I kept chatting away to the missus whilst glancing occasionally at the match.

Yankuba Minteh Goal Celebration Feyenoord

IMAGO/Box to Box Pictures

On the hour mark, I looked up to see a fleet footed winger knock the ball past the Excelsior left back and leave him for dust before playing the ball into the box for the striker to sweep home and give Feyenoord the lead. I thought, ‘that bloke looks a lot like Yankuba Minteh.’ As the players congregated for their obligatory celebration hug, I saw it was him. I went back onto the match line-ups, scrolled down and, sure enough, Minteh came off the bench in that game. In fact, he had come on only a minute or so before assisting the goal. Suddenly, I was a lot more interested in proceedings.

It had been a great assist from Yankuba Minteh. Check out the highlights and see for yourself. It’s simple as you like, knocking the ball past his man but knowing that he’s got the pace to roar away from him and give himself enough space to pick a good pass into the box.

He played a huge part in the third goal as well. This time he was given the ball just inside the opposing half. His first thought was to surge forward again. As he squared up to the left back, this time he came inside. He faked a shot to evade the centre back and laid off the ball to a teammate. A couple of passes later and it’s 3-1. This is all within six minutes of Minteh coming off the bench.
It wasn’t just in an attacking sense that he was making a difference. On the 70th minute, he tracked a run from the right wing, all the way to the left back position. This shows a bit of naivety in his game but also evidences a fantastic work rate. Feyenoord regained possession and he instantly sprinted back over to his right wing berth to help his team get back in shape.

Excelsior pulled one back but then in the 82nd minute Minteh was involved again. Hugging the touchline, he received the ball and skipped inside past the left back yet again. Laying the ball off to a teammate, that player passed it into the box and one deflected shot later it was 4-2.

He may have only registered one assist but Yankuba Minteh played a significant role in the other two goals for his team. His thirty minutes on the pitch sparked his team into life and helped them cruise to a big away victory against their local rivals. With a bit more research I found that it had been his first game back after the hamstring injury that had ruled him out for a trio of matches.

Minteh has played 12 games in the Eredivisie this season. He’s started six and come off the bench in six, notching up three goals and two assists in the process. He’s only actually played 566 minutes of football, meaning he’s averaging a goal or assist every 113 minutes. Not bad stats for a teenager. If what I saw is anything to go by, I’d imagine he’s made important contributions to many more goals than that too.

According to Eddie Howe, there is no recall option in the loan, so Feyenoord would have to be willing to let him go. The likeliness of this is questionable as they are fighting for the title. They are second currently, albeit 12 points off PSV at the top. If we can get him back, Yankuba Minteh could be a huge asset for us this season. He’s got blistering pace, great technical ability, a two-footedness that is currently completely absent from our right wing and a great work ethic. I’m not saying he’d come in and replace Miggy instantly, but he would give us another option off the bench and I think he would put a lot of pressure on the Paraguayan. He’s far from the finished article but if you needed some unbridled enthusiasm and menace, he seems like just the man.

We’ve got a lot of injured wing options and they will return at some point which might give us a glut of options, but then, who’s to say others won’t pick up knocks?

Joe Willock Miguel Almiron Newcastle United

It’s looking like we’ve now lost Joelinton for the rest of the season so when players like Anderson and Willock are back, we will need them for central midfield cover.

Yankuba Minteh is away at AFCON currently but Gambia (the lowest ranked team in the world of those competing at AFCON) lost their first game 3-0 and are looking likely to be coming home after their final group game on the 23rd of January.

If we can get a release negotiated that means he could be back before we face Villa. I’d imagine he wouldn’t be thrown straight into the FA Cup match on the 27th. Like Kuol he’s young enough to not take up a squad place. That means we’d still have those two senior slots should we manage to make a couple of transfers or loans later in this window.

Minteh’s Gambia are playing Guinea this evening in their second group game of the competition.

You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin

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