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Mapou hopes for a bit of Magpies magic on his return to Villa Park
8:00am Saturday 14th September 2013 in Sport
WHEN Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa returns to the scene of his Premier League debut today, the French defender is more confident about the direction Newcastle United are heading.
While there is frustration among supporters following a very uneventful summer transfer window on Tyneside, Yanga-Mbiwa feels there is still sufficient quality to avoid a repeat of last season's battle to beat the drop.
That would be markedly different to the situation he found himself in immediately after arriving from Montpellier in a £6.7m deal last January.
He remembers appearing at Aston Villa, where he emerged as a second half substitute, knowing the importance of putting some wins on the board to climb clear of trouble.
Yanga-Mbiwa's first game ended in a 2-1 win at Villa Park, which proved to be the first victory of four in a five-match domestic run which effectively safeguarded Newcastle's Premier League status come May.
This season, he believes, will be different - but they have to find some form now rather than later. He said: “Last time we went there, the team was in a very difficult position. We were in a relegation battle and it was a tough match to make your debut away from home in such an important match.
"This year, it is still the start of the season and a bit more of a level playing field. We need to go there and take every chance we can and make sure we get the goals we can to put ourselves in a better position going forward.
“It was very tough last season. We know that. This year, we need to learn from that experience. We certainly cannot afford to give less than 100 per cent in any game, whether we are playing a team at the top of the league or at the bottom. Every match counts.
"We won our last game and now must make sure we follow up with another and then another. We cannot just celebrate one win. We have to build on it. After the experiences we had last season, no one wants to endure anything like that again.”
Yanga-Mbiwa was an interested observer inside St James' Park on Wednesday night when more than 50,000 witnessed Steve Harper's 20-year Charity Match against AC Milan Glorie.
Such an occasion left him even clearer on the passion which exists for the club he joined earlier in the year - and the need to make this season a better one than the last.
The French defender said: "As you can see, every home game is a full stadium and when we play away, we sell out our allocation. Here in Newcastle, the love of football and the team has been passed down the generations.
"That is obvious and it makes it a very special place to play. You can sense the love to former players. Just looking at the crowd, the statues and the photographs around the place and the names that have been here makes you realise how privileged your are."
And he already feels at home on Tyneside. He said: "Newcastle is a lovely place with welcoming people. They are fun to talk with. You can see they all live for their football. Wherever you go, they will chat to you.
“Geordie is a bit tough to understand but I am improving from when I first arrived. As long as I ask people with me to make sure they speak slowly, I can understand them. Then I have plenty of time to focus on what they are saying.”
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