Abeid savours Premier experience
Forgotten man Mehdi Abeid is relishing the task of rubbing shoulders with some of the Barclays Premier League's biggest names as he starts to reap the rewards of his hard work and patience.
The Frenchman arrived at Newcastle as an 18-year-old in July 2011 but had to wait until Saturday to make his league debut for the Magpies, three days after playing a key role in a famous 2-0 Capital One Cup fourth round victory at Manchester City.
Having emerged unscathed from a midfield battle with Yaya Toure, Abeid impressed once again as Steven Gerrard's Liverpool left St James' Park on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline to leave the now 22-year-old beaming.
Abeid told nufcTV: "It's just unreal. You don't know how happy I am to play for this club and to prove myself. But I couldn't be as good if my team-mates weren't with me helping me every day.
"The last four years hasn't been easy for me. I was just patient, I tried to work every day to be successful, and now I have to enjoy my time in the Premier League.
"I had to grow up as a player and as a man. What I did, I was really patient, I was working really hard. My loans were a really good experience for me, I learned a lot and today, I am really pleased to be playing for Newcastle.
"I want to play against the big players to judge myself, to learn every day. That's how we learn, to play against big players, and I am happy with what I have done this week."
Abeid, who spent last season in Greece with Panathinaikos after a spell in Scotland with St Johnstone, is one of a series of men to have stepped up to the plate in manager Alan Pardew's hour of need.
Another, winger Gabriel Obertan, is facing several weeks on the sidelines after appearing to tear a thigh muscle during a first-half sprint but his replacement, teenager Rolando Aarons, shone once again and it was summer signing Ayoze Perez who claimed the headlines with a 73rd-minute winner, the 21-year-old's second decisive strike in a week.
Newcastle, who had not won a single league game this season until promoted Leicester headed for Tyneside on October 18, have now won three on the trot either side of their shock cup victory at the Etihad Stadium, a run which has completely changed the mood in the city.
Abeid said: "Our collective was great and we are happy with what we did. Four wins in a row is just amazing."
The Magpies will attempt to extend their blistering run next Sunday when they travel to West Brom, although Abeid will be taking nothing for granted.
Asked if he had done enough to secure a place in the team at the Hawthorns, he replied: "No, I didn't do enough. I have to work more to prove myself."
Whether Pardew feels the same remains to be seen, but the 53-year-old had the air of a man whose shoulders had been relieved of a heavy burden as he surveyed his team's latest success.
He said: "It's been an unbelievable spell for us. The basis of what we have done is great defence, a good goalie, not letting teams hurt us and having pace in the team that on the break, will cause anyone problems at whatever level.
"We proved that at Manchester City and against Liverpool and Tottenham, that on the break we are very, very difficult."
In the depths of his troubles, Pardew was accused by some of his most ardent critics of lacking tactical nous, but his battle plans, and particularly substitutions, have proved hugely influential in recent weeks and his half-time decision to withdraw striker Papiss Cisse and replace him with Perez, much to the older man's annoyance, was fully vindicated.
Pardew said: "We had a disagreement at half-time. He [Cisse] felt he was okay, but I didn't think he was moving great.
"It wasn't about how he was playing, it was just he has a knee at the moment that isn't giving him full licence and at this level, you can't do that."