In the 2-1 defeat at Vicarage Road on Saturday Mikel Merino was back from a slight injury and was introduced as a sub in the 84th minute.
Since he suffered the lower back injury in October Mikel has struggled for game time at Newcastle, and that was after he had made an excellent start to his career on Tyneside.
The excellent form and experience of Mo Diame has kept both Isaac Hayden and Merino out of the first team, and both have struggled to get minutes on the pitch.
But Mikel still seems happy enough at Newcastle, with a number of Spanish clubs said to be interested in signing the Spanish U21 captain this summer.
Mikel Merino – in Spain’s colors
This is what Mikel has told the local press as reported in the Shields Gazette today:
“I’m happy. I’m just focusing on playing football and enjoying myself.”
“We have these two matches, and then I’ll clear my mind and relax with my family and loved ones and enjoy my holidays.”
“Yes, players always want to play, and even more when you think you are doing the correct things.”
“The coaches decide who has to play, and I’m here just to try to put my skills and motivation for the team.”
“I’m happy now for the few minutes I’ve played, and I hope to have some more.”
“Rafa gave a chance to Manquillo and Murphy. They earned it. What we have to do is wait for the coach to make the decision. Hopefully, I can play more.”
“Watford started the match brightly, with a lot of intensity, and did the things that they had to do,” Merino added.
“We had a lack of focus or maybe the things were not as we wanted from the beginning. But football is like this, when you’re winning, you start to drop off a little bit and let the other team have the ball.
“We had some big chances, and it’s a shame we didn’t take them. Of course it is important we end this losing run. We always want to win, and not only win, but have a good sense of our own work.
“We know this is not what we wanted. It seems like we are relaxed, this is not the case. We are going to approach the two matches with 100% to finish the season with a good feeling.”
“We don’t have to think about who we play against, just the match.”
“Maybe playing against a big team gives us even more motivation to approach the game with intensity.
“But we have to approach every game with our 100 per cent. It doesn’t matter who we play.”
Mikel seems upbeat in that interview, but it’s almost certain there will be some clubs come in for him in the summer.
But he has to stay on Tyneside, and he has been unlucky this season with his back injury and the fact that Mo Diame has been playing so well in defensive midfield.
We need a lot of good players fighting to be in the Newcastle first team next season, and Mikel is one of them.
The 21-year-old has made 25 appearances for Newcastle this season with one goal and one assist.