Miguel Almiron targeting strong finish from Newcastle to prepare for 2020/21 season
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Last Updated: 20/07/20 7:08pm
Miguel Almiron has always dreamed of playing in Europe, but his first full season in the Premier League with Newcastle has been out of the ordinary.
His first summer break saw a change in manager as Steve Bruce replaced Rafa Benitez - not always the most surprising move in the English game - before a three-month football suspension due to a global pandemic and games played behind closed doors with none of the passionate Newcastle support.
Despite some pre-season concerns, the Magpies have already been assured of their place in the Premier League next season and are on course for a comfortable mid-table finish, along with an appearance in the FA Cup quarter-finals.
But for all their achievements this term, it could be soured by a winless end with the Magpies having lost their last three league games, but Almiron is confident they can finish strongly to give Newcastle an early boost for the fast-approaching 2020/21 campaign.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, the midfielder said: "There have certainly been a lot of games since the restart and I think now you're just starting to see the signs of tiredness and fatigue, which is normal after so many months break.
"You don't normally have such a long break in the middle of the season... After you stop playing and you're not on the field for a couple of months, I think it's normal that the team drops off a little bit in form, that tiredness has played a role. We're still working hard in training and during games to finish well.
"In terms of the last two games, irrespective of what Steve [Bruce] might say, players motivate themselves - it's our job to do that first and foremost. Just stepping out onto the field is enough motivation to do well for the shirt.
"I think in the next two games, it's about taking them seriously, playing properly and being calm and relaxed and trying to play our football with the [relegation] pressure off but still they're still competitive games so we want to do well.
"Steve Bruce wants us to finish well because in a way, that is the best way to prepare for the start of next season, going into pre-season with a pretty quick turnaround where we hope to get a good start next time around.
"All in all, it has been a decent season. We're mid-table, obviously we always want to be higher than we currently are if that's possible and maybe go even further in one of the two cups we were involved in, but I think this squad has done very well. We started OK but I think we want to have a good pre-season, start even brighter next season if we can and take the positives into the next season."
Almiron arrived at Newcastle as a then-club record signing in January 2019 and after a slow start in front of goal - with a season-ending injury in April of that year playing a part - Almiron has surged into the lead as Newcastle's top scorer this term with eight goals, two of those coming since the restart.
Growing up in South America, playing in the Premier League is something Almiron dreamed of and is now taking the chance with both hands.
He reflected: "It has been a great move for me. I think as a player, you're always looking for challenges and after a good period in the MLS, you're looking for another challenge. I think as players in South America, we're always working hard to get to that ultimate dream of playing in Europe and the Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world.
"My hard work paid off and it worked out for me to come to Newcastle. I didn't hesitate and from minute one since I arrived in here, I've been lucky in the sense that the fans have been right behind me, I've enjoyed their support and their affection.
"I was aware that I was coming to a big club with a lot of history and with a very passionate fanbase, a big, locally based fanbase as well. I knew these fans were the type that always go to the games come rain on shine to really support the team and get behind the side.
"So It's something I've been happy with and it's been great for me since I got here, it's something I've enjoyed and its come to fruition again that these fans have been how they were described for me. I felt like it's been the right move ever since it happened."
A meteoric rise to the Premier League
It's hard to believe that just three and a half years ago, Almiron was still playing in Argentina with Primera Division side Lanus, having began his career in his native Paraguay.
But Almiron's talent gained recognition in European circles while playing for Atlanta United in the MLS, where he lit up the league with skill, goals and a fruitful partnership with Josef Martinez.
"As a kid, all I ever did was kick a ball, if I couldn't find a football, I'd be kicking something so I've loved football from a very young age," Almiron said.
"Way back from the age of seven, I asked my Dad to take me to my local team so I could train and try out and he took me to my district team called 'the Third of November' [all the teams in Paraguay are named after a famous date and the third of November was the day the team was founded], which is where I did my soccer school until I went to Cerro Porteno, which was my first professional team.
"I was then in Argentina, playing for a team called Lanus and things were going well there, we won the league twice and I got a call from the Atlanta coach at the time, Tata Martino - who is Argentinian - and he talked to me about the plans he had, the project that he had set up at Atlanta.
"He said it would go well and I would learn a lot and I certainly did. I learnt a lot from him and fortunately, things went well for the team and for me personally while I was there as well."
Almiron joined Atlanta United at their inception in 2017, with Martino leading the side to the MLS play-offs in his first season before winning the MLS Cup the following year.
It would prove to be the Almiron's last game for the club before his move across the pond, notching up 22 goals in 70 appearances during his MLS stint.
He said of his MLS successes: "The whole way in which Tata built the side, set up the team, got us playing, he really got together a great group of players and it was a good side. I think the way we played suited me and I had a really good relationship with Josef Martinez, not only a as team-mate but he became a very good friend off the field as well, and we had a great understanding on the field. I think it was lots of factors like that.
"Winning the MLS Cup was fantastic, it was just what we needed as a team. It was culmination of all the hard work, the plans, the effort we had put in as a team and it was the crowning glory to win the title we had worked so hard for. I think it was extra special because it was a while since the fans had had anything to celebrate so it was great for us but it was the fans that needed that victory as well."
'We will have same attitude for Brighton'
Next up in the Premier League is a trip to Brighton, live on Sky Sports, for Newcastle's penultimate game of the season as they look to halt a losing streak.
But Almiron insists that they will have the same professional attitude against the south coast club, who themselves have not 100 per cent guaranteed their own safety.
The midfielder concluded: "It's not going to be an easy game. Brighton will be looking to take three points and finish as high up the table as they can, ourselves too. We're wanting to get as many points as we can in these last two games to attain the best position in the league that we can.
"They're a good side, they've got some quality players in their squad, but we're going to go out with the same attitude we always have and that is to go out for the win, for the three points. We always try to improve as individual players and as a unit and we'll be going all out to try and get this victory on Monday."