It says everything about Miguel Almiron’s mindset that every time I attempt to engage in conversation about his goal drought he smiles, shrugs and relaxes back into his chair.
The 25-year-old, bought for a then-club-record fee of £21m to bring goals to Newcastle’s toiling front line, has made 26 appearances and has yet to find the net.
But he genuinely is not concerned. And for as long as his manager and the Newcastle fans are happy with his contribution, the Paraguay international will be content with his lot.
Almiron insists he has found a home in the North East of England, and the support he has received from the Toon Army is allowing him to sleep well at night, despite constant chatter of his goal drought being a major talking point nationwide.
Those who watch him on a weekly basis know exactly what he brings to the team, and that flies in the face of some criticism he has received, including from the likes of Danny Mills, who says Almiron should take his place in the worst Premier League XI.
When he finally missed a match – last week against Burnley through injury – the team as a whole suffered. Newcastle only once managed to get themselves high enough up the pitch and into a position in which they could score. It was noted by fans and team-mates alike.
“I can honestly say my failure to score isn’t something I’m worried too much about,” Almiron said smiling as we chatted at the Newcastle training ground – a place where I am told by multiple sources he is first to arrive and last to leave most days.
“I’m sure goals will come. I score goals. I did it in South America, the MLS and I score for my country too. It’s just about doing what I’ve done throughout my career.
“Let’s hope the goals start flowing very, very soon. But I’ve felt the support of the fans so much from the start and they have been just fantastic. Their support has made me feel calm. I appreciate their backing and it makes me work even harder.
“I just love the game so much and I want to be involved all over the place – I want to be everywhere. I’m like one of the kids in the playground who is just chasing the ball all over the place. Football is my life, it is my world. It is my happy place.”
Despite his drought in front of goal, the skinny kid from Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital, has found another happy place in the Premier League’s most northern city.
It was almost a year ago this reporter watched on from the warmth of his car parked to the side of the helipad as a nervous-looking club-record transfer climbed off a helicopter to an icy cold Newcastle city centre the day before Transfer Deadline Day.
It was a transfer then-manager Rafa Benitez had openly courted for months and there was a pressure attached. The club’s transfer record had not been broken for some 13 years and this was a statement from both Mike Ashley and Benitez.
The fact that the Paraguayan has managed to remain a favourite of the fans despite failing to register a goal says everything about what he has brought to the table.
He said: “Settling in at first was a bit tough, I can’t deny. It was the first time I had been to England and it was all very different. The language, the weather, the culture, and of course there was the pressure. It’s still there. But I’m relaxed now.
“My English is coming along okay, I can understand most things but I’m a bit shy so coming out and speaking is not always for me.
“I was a bit reticent and shy. It takes me a while to open up as a person when I first meet them. I need to develop that trust with a person first before I do.
“But understanding the likes of Matt Ritchie shouting at me was one of the first things I learned when I arrived!
“Now everything is perfect, I am very happy with the city and the club. It feels right. Newcastle is my home now. I dedicate my life to the club.
“My family have been great for moral support but I feel I handle it well. In the modern game, most players are used to being away from home and having to support themselves and this is no different.”
Manager Steve Bruce underlined Almiron’s importance to the team when he said: “In 20 years as a manager I’ve never seen anyone cover the distance that he does. His running stats are incredible – as big as I’ve seen for a player.”
At the club’s training ground on Friday he was keeping a close eye on the winger – hoping he declares himself fit enough to come straight back into the team for the visit of Crystal Palace this weekend.
For Almiron, it is nice to have a manager who appreciates him for the way he is. As a teenager in Paraguay he failed a succession of trials for being too skinny.
It was only when his Uncle Diego decided to take matters into his own hands and drive him to a trial with local league club Cerro Porteno that things started to happen. There were 300 boys already there waiting for a chance, and in Diego’s words “I’ll never forget it because Miguel was number 301 in the squad”.
Again, he was dropped and held back as a succession of coaches feared he would not grow. Physically he has not grown that much, but mentally he has shot up.
“I’m comfortable with the fact that some managers might not fancy me,” he grinned. “I’m totally comfortable with that.
“When I was a teenager my lack of physicality and me being so skinny put people off. I wasn’t being picked but I just kept working hard and training until my chance came.
“I think it happens with most players, they have set-backs and family problems. But it made me stronger and more mature as a player and person for my move to the MLS and then Newcastle.”
Bruce has been presented with Almiron on a plate and he certainly does not think the South American in the North of England is too skinny. In fact, the Newcastle manager will take yet another blank from the little kid with the smile if it means getting him back in his team on Saturday.
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