HE has scored in his last two appearances against Manchester City, and after opening his Newcastle United account in Tuesday’s pre-season friendly at Oldham Athletic, Siem de Jong is hoping to complete a notable hat-trick on the opening weekend of the season.
Two seasons ago, de Jong was part of the Ajax side that helped dump Manchester City out of the Champions League at the group stage, scoring the opener as his Dutch employers won 3-1 on home soil and claiming another two goals as City were held to a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium.
Newcastle’s own record against City is nothing like as impressive, as they have lost their last ten games against the reigning Premier League champions, and the visitors will start as firm favourites when St James’ Park stages its opening fixture of the new campaign on Sunday, August 17.
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Alan Pardew’s new-look squad are looking forward to the challenge though, with de Jong hoping his personal goalscoring record will count for something after he hit the ground running with a fantastic long-range strike in Tuesday’s friendly defeat to the Latics.
“I played against Man City a couple of years ago in the Champions League, and scored three goals in the two games,” said the Dutch midfielder, who wore the captain’s armband in the absence of Fabricio Coloccini against Oldham. “So that’s not bad.
“I scored one goal at home when we won 3-1, and then two goals in Manchester when we drew 2-2. It’s nice to have done that, but it’s going to be very different in the first game of the season and we’re all aware of that.
“It’s different now, and a different moment for everyone, but hopefully I’ll play another good game against them and we’ll come out on top.”
With Remy Cabella having arrived for a knockdown £7m fee, de Jong is Newcastle’s most expensive signing of the summer so far, and on the evidence of Tuesday’s game, the 25-year-old has been earmarked to play in the pivotal ‘number ten’ role behind a lone centre-forward.
He filled that position to impressive effect at the Amsterdam ArenA, scoring 57 goals in 168 appearances as he helped Ajax claim four successive Eredivise titles.
Most of Newcastle’s overseas signings can be described as emerging talents with a fair bit of their development still to go, but de Jong is unusual in that he arrives on Tyneside as pretty much the finished product.
An established Holland international with six full caps – albeit one that missed out on the Dutch squad for this summer’s World Cup finals – he has been signed at the peak of his powers, although the opening week of an English pre-season has been enough to convince him that he still has much to learn.
“The first week has been quite tough,” he said. “Already, I have the feeling that everything is one or two seconds faster. The runs we do here, we did them in Amsterdam too, but it just feels as though everything is one or two seconds faster over here, and I have to step up to that.
“The training also tends to be 15 or 20 minutes longer, and there’s one or two gym sessions more, so it just feels like everything is that little bit tougher, but that’s good. You feel like you’re really working.
“It was hard to play the game on Tuesday after a tough week training, and I could feel my legs even though I’d only played for 60 minutes or so. But I’m sure it will get easier as pre-season goes on.”
De Jong was one of three Newcastle debutants at Oldham, and while Jack Colback and Ayoze Perez turned in decent enough displays, it was the Dutch number 15 who really caught the eye.
His first-half goal was a cracker as he drilled home a ferocious first-time strike after his initial free-kick had been blocked, and his all-round play in the hole behind Adam Armstrong showcased the creative talents that Pardew hopes will increase Newcastle’s attacking threat next term.
“It was a bad free-kick, but I managed to hit the next one quite nicely,” said de Jong. “It’s nice to have played my first game. I’d only been training up until then, but it’s always nice to play, even if it was just a friendly match.
“It was also nice to score, and see how the team plays. Of course we need to improve, and we’re disappointed with the loss, but it’s still very early. We have to keep improving, and the next few weeks will allow us to do that.”