Fringe Player Focus – Kevin Mbabu

Is the young Swiss destined for a career at the top?
Is the young Swiss destined for a career at the top?

Today the Fringe Focus series takes a look at Kevin Mbabu, the versatile Chêne-Bougeries born Swiss under 20’s International, who made his debut in a 2-2 draw versus reigning League Champions Chelsea 5-months-ago.

Kevin Mbabu joined Newcastle United in January 2013 following a successful trial having made his breakthrough with Servette, with whom he made his senior debut with in the Swiss Super League in September 2012. He has represented Switzerland at all youth levels up to the U-20’s, for whom he has 2 caps. He is 6 feet and half an inch tall, has a physical presence and does not get bullied off the ball. Kevin is in fact his middle name by the way. His first name is Melingo .

He was actually scouted by both Manchester United and Arsenal back in 2011, going as far as joining the Gunner’s youth side on trial for the Ferroli Cup in Italy. Needless to say that did not work out and thankfully so – because Arsenal’s loss in Newcastle’s gain. Mbabu actually started off as a defensive midfielder in his early teens with the ability to play in central defense – but is now mainly regarded as a right back, who is comfortable covering on the left or centrally if required. Due to the ongoing injury problems suffered by both Paul Dummett and Massaido Haidara, young Kevin (he is approaching 21-years-old this April) has been used pretty much exclusively as left back cover by the senior team this season.

Mbabu’s signing was part of an advertised wider effort by Newcastle United to bring the development squad to new heights – a drive to recruit some of the brightest up and coming talent from cross Europe. Around the time that this lad joined the club, the Toon had just failed with a £3m bid to bring a certain Florian Thauvin in from Bastia – who at the time was regarded as one of the very best prospects around. Other junior signings to come in within this time frame were the likes of Gael Bigirimana, Romain Amalfitano, Curtis Good, Mehdi Abeid and Massaido Haidara. As you can see, that recruitment drive, much like the senior side over the years – bore little success.

Mbabu enjoyed a growing reputation within the reserve set up, helping Peter Beardsley’s under 21’s to the summit of their league for a time. At the beginning of 2015 he was deemed ready for his first loan move in order to aid his development. He was shipped off to Scottish Division 1’s Rangers alongside 4 other Toon youngsters.The move appeared to be more of a distraction technique employed by Mike Ashley to convince ‘Gers fans that his power grab at their team could bring mutual benefits to both his clubs. Whether it was designed to actually benefit the players themselves is questionable and newly appointed manager Stuart McCall was not impressed with being handed a handful of either long term injured or unfit players from our reserves set up when they were trying to gain automatic promotion back to the promised land of the SPL. In Mbabu’s case, he was described as being unfit despite featuring in two U-20 games and training with the senior side during his time there. Maybe he was unfit or maybe McCall did not fancy him. Either way he came back at the end of the season with zero senior side experience to his name.

At the beginning of this season, Mbabu was earmarked for a short term stint at Gateshead, but instead chose to stay and made his debut in the League Cup loss to Sheffield Wednesday’s second string having replaced Daryl Janmaat at half time. A defensive crisis then struck prior to the Chelsea game a few days later and Kevin found himself playing left back for the full 90 minutes. Not only did he apply himself well, but he excelled. Mbabu successfully made 8 tackles that day, a figure not beaten by anybody in the league – even matching experienced midfield battler Lucas Leiva of Liverpool. He went on to feature for 53 minutes during the 6-1 stuffing received by Manchester City before going off injured. Unfortunately injuries have been a common feature in his time with us and if he is going to kick on and develop into the player that his potential indicates he can be – he will need to overcome these repeated niggles.

Either side of these niggles, Mbabu put in a decent shift against a very determined Bournemouth and then turned out against Watford in the Magpies’ recent FA Cup loss. If it were not for his injuries since his impressive league debut against Chelsea, I am certain the lad would have featured more often in the first team – perhaps relieving Rolando Aarons of the Mission Impossible he has faced recently – with the attack minded winger being deployed in an unfamiliar role at full back.

Mbabu’s contract runs down this summer and manager for now Steve McClaren has this to say to the Chronicle when asked if he’d like the young Swiss to stay;

“Yes, I like him. He has a good attitude, he’s a good athlete and he’s strong. He’s willing and wants to do the job. He is wholehearted and you can see he just wants to get up the field with the ball. It’s a shame (he picked up injury) because he did well, it was his first game back at Watford in the FA Cup.”

Clearly McClaren and his staff rate the lad but it is unknown if a new deal has yet been put forward. Rolando Aarons is in the same boat, but it is understood the club has an option to automatically extend his contract – so there is no rush to tie him down. Whether such a clause exists with Kevin Mbabu is unknown..

It’s hard to know just how good this lad can be. Whilst he is a solid physical presence, he has only won 60% of his headers so far and has made only one successful tackle out of 9 in his league games since his impressive turn against Chelsea. He is not the quickest either and has only succeeded with 25% of his take-on’s, a figure he will need to improve if he is to be an effective full back. His repeated injuries also raise doubts as to his long term suitability at this level – but if he can get injury free and have a run of games together in his preferred position, he might just prove that his Chelsea performance was not a one off, but a sign of the things to come.

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About Shamrock

Like everyone here, support Newcastle United. Not the easiest side to feel good about at times, but it's our side!

114 thoughts on “Fringe Player Focus – Kevin Mbabu

  1. I voted yes for Mbabu to become a success at Newcastle Shamrock. I would also like to pay my respect to Sir Bobby Robson who would have been 83 today. Gone but not forgotten.

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  2. If he can stay fit and if he’s given the chance then I would say yes he could be a success. I still think we need a 1st team LB with Mbabu either out on loan or back up but getting game time where possible.

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  3. From other thread.
    Stuart
    You suggest I don’t take into account the egos of these managers.
    Wow! 😯 You know what I do and don’t take into account.
    Funnily enough, it wasnt long ago you were suggesting nufc would only attract puppet type managers who would have to dance to Ashleys tune. What’s changed?
    I would love to see Benitez here but I don’t think there’s a cat in hells chance of it happening under this regime.
    Have you been sniffing glue. ? 😯

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  4. Psychs
    You suggest I make my mind up about Clark as to whether I’m on the wind up.
    When have I changed my opinion? I’ve been serious throughout. It was others that said I was on a wind up.
    I call them the Clueless Crew though. 😉

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  5. Interestingly, over the years I have done Fring Player Focus articles on Danny Guthrie, James Perch, Hamas Kadar, Haris Vuckic, Shane Ferguson and a few more. The vote has always come out in favour of these players being a long term success here, Sith the exception of James Perch – who a majority said would fail. Perch was probably the only one that ever contributed anything meaningful to our squad in his time here. Goes to show these things are impossible to judge really. Fingers crossed Mbabu bucks the trend.

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  6. Shamrock @6: they are not impossible to judge – have a 100% failure rate, apart from MBabu now 🙂 Hopefully your luck will change.

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  7. Troy: it wasn’t long ago that you agreed with everything Stuart said and held him up as the oracle to people like AMF. That AMF that never talkds about football now, so I don’t blame you for that.

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  8. Troy’s last 3 choices for NUFC manager:

    Carver – yes you did say he was a good interim manager.
    Clark
    Pearce

    🙂 🙂 🙂 FFS. YCMIU.

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  9. Eric @8 – 95% of 175ish voters said Kadar would be a success. He now plays in the Polish league. 99% of 350ish voters in 2011 said Vuckic would be a hit. He cant get a game at Wigan in League 1. 63% voted in favor of Guthrie. He’s struggled to get regular starting games at Championship level since he left us – and he’s only 28. Shame they show so much talent then just peter out.

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  10. Sham, Nice article thanks. I voted yes more in hope than anything. I have been quite impressed with the little time we’ve seen him play. Hopefully take ons,and tackles will improve with game time and experience, don’t know if same applies to headers as some players just seem to not like heading a ball 🙄 As for his injuries, for what ever reason our young ones do seem rather fragile, it could be their bodies still developing though at 21 that seems unlikely or poor training regimes and medical care. The club doctor has left now, it’ll be interesting to see if a new doctor can sort out our playing staff better. Hopefully the new doc will be a specialist consultant in sports injuries.

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  11. Shamrock: I didn’t vote for them 🙂 just like I didn’t vote for Prince Charles to be the next King.

    I think Troy must have voted 166 times for Kadar. That’s the only explanation that I can think of as to why he got 95% of the vote.

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  12. One thing for sure he wasn’t overawed by any means against Chelsea in fact one of the better players on the day, a one off?? let’s wait and see sure we will give the kid a chance,he has a bit of pace and not frightened to put a foot in.as some have said there have been one or two flattered to deceive,lee Clark was lucky to get away with it for,was the best sideways and backwards passer I ever saw in my life and his shot had the power of a five year old

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  13. Kim, I agree re: needing a consultant. The injury problems go far deeper than our kids and I don’t believe its a fluke. There is good reason for it and it will be explained by something the club has been doing wrong for years – either bad medical treatment, poor quality facilities or wrong training schedules…

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  14. Troy I wish you were on the board of director’s at Nufc. You’d fit right in there mate 😉 They would say to you, we need someone who’s unsuccessful that might turn the clubs fortune’s around. 1. Clark 2. Pearce 3. Big Ron 4. Venables job done not forgetting Jewell.

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  15. Big Ron has won the FA cup. Venables a league title a Barcelona. Maybe a bit long in the tooth now but still an improvement on McClaren.

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  16. Lee Clark has won … erm??? McBrolly had a treble with Man U but not as Manager. A league Cup and a Dutch title. Luckily Man U had to play NUFC in the FA Cup in 1999 and were about as lucky as you could get to beat Bayern who played them off the pitch in normal time.

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  17. Ice – if we sell Cisse to China for any price this season then that would suggest to me we are preparing to go down & are clearing the decks. For a team that can’t score a goal, you can’t possibly sell the only forward that scores us goals.

    As for LVG, I’m amazed he and Mc are still employed. LVG more so based on the fact Jose is waiting in the wings. You have to think that the Man Utd players want shot of LVG now as well.

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  18. Ice – I don’t see them getting CL this season if they stick with LVG personally and that would be as disastrous for them as relegation would be for us I reckon … maybe not quite, but it would be bad.

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  19. Psychs
    Kevin Keegan won nothing as a manager. He came to the toon with no experience. Best manager we’ve had in modern times. You should broaden your horizons. You’re shallow minded. I’m a modern thinker. I think outside the box. I think I get that from grandma Baba Vange. 😆

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  20. Troy be fair now. We were in the second division when Keegan took charge. A wonderful job he done too. He also had the Hall’s backing him financially. Which helped in some way’s. Keegan was no ass kissing creep like Pardew. He would stand his ground. The mess we are in right now has everything to do with Ashley and his ass kissing minion’s.

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  21. I can’t honestly say my horizons have been broadened recently – for example, I didn’t even know Kilmarnock had a football team til recently 😆

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  22. Mike Ashley lost over a billion pounds in shares with sports direct so I think his more worried about that. His also lost his legal battle with Rangers fc. Us getting relegated too ( well they say bad luck comes in three).

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  23. Thinking outside the box is the most overused term ever and is based upon a matchstick puzzle. So you and Baba Ganoush continue to think outside the box. Keegan was hired when we were facing division 3 and nobody knew how brilliant and crazy he would be. It is a lot easier to think outside the box when the the alternative is oblivion.

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  24. I cringe every time i hear “thinking outside the box” because it is usually some TV Chef who is using broccoli in place of cauliflower.

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  25. “Thinking outside the box” is quite a lame metaphor because as I said it refers to a matchstick puzzle. Even more it is most often used to describe the utterly mundane which makes it even more lame.

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  26. Psychs. You might not have noticed cos you can’t get put the box, but we are heading for championship oblivion.
    You’ve said yourself we need a change now. I don’t believe for a second those you mention would take the risk of taking over now in case they end up in the championship.
    My choice of Clark until the end of the season was realities. Also Stuart Pearce.
    Not my ideal choices by a long way but realistic I will remind you like I remind Stuart. We couldn’t find a replacement for Pardew from January until the end of the season.
    Nothing has changed.

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  27. Troy: you have to admit that we have some talent in our squad and most Managers would reckon they could get more out of them. We are not cast adrift yet. Pearson won 7 of his last 9 games at Leicester and I think they had 19 points after 29 games. Keegan was a desperate move that happened to pay off spectacularly well. We are not yet desperate but we are close. Please make realistic suggestions so that you can be taken seriously for once. I said you were serious about Clark, just not realistic 🙂

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  28. We’ve changed the Midfireld and Attack and we still get hammered. I think Stuart said 7 losses of 3 or more goals this season. We changed the left back from Santon and the right-back from Debuchy. We played MBemba instead of Willo and Taylor. The one common denominator is – Captain Curly.

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  29. We didn’t find a replacement for Pardew because of the incompetence of Charnley, the fact he was willing to wait for Schteve and that he thought even Carver couldn’t F it up from where we were. He didn’t conduct a serious search in the summer because he and Carr had already made up their minds about McClaren. The fact he was sacked (again) should have rang alarm bells but didn’t.

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  30. I think we are desparate. Our away form is the worst in the league and 5 of our next 7 are away. Scteve does not know how to set us up on the road and if he is still here by the end of those 7 games, it will be too late for us I fear.

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  31. Also, this head coach nonsense is a power play from Carr and Charnley. Now that they have spent Fat Man’s money and we are no further forward he might give a bit more control back to a MANAGER.

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  32. Shamrock, where did this fallacy that we play 5 of our next 7 away start?

    We play:

    Stoke Away
    Bournemouth Home
    Leceister Away
    Mackems Home
    Norwich Away
    Southampton Away
    Swansea Home

    That is 3 of our relegation rivals at home and 1 away (Norwich).

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  33. If my glass was half full to use another cliche, we have 3 very winnable home games in the next 7 and one must not lose away game (Norwich).

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  34. Good point Eric. It’s because the Man City game has been postponed, date still to be arranged. That woild have made it 5 of 7 away and still might if it gets rescheduled in that period – but yes some winnable games there. Shame we have the Grin Reaper in charge for them though and 4 of the 7 are away in any case, where our form is the worst in the league. One of the home games is against the Mackems, who always beat us.

    Fingers crossed for some good results and lots of goals because goal difference is also something we need to improve if we are to stay up…

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  35. As I said above, Colo has remained the one constant in our defense. We have changed his partners, changed fullbacks, had 3 managers, changed systems, changed tactics and yet he remains and we get worse as he gets slower. We are on pace for 71+ goals conceded which must be some sort of record.

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  36. On topic for a change – I really like Mbabu. His performance against Hazard and Pedro marked him out as one of our best defenders. Strange though how so many, especially kids, struggle with injuries. It’s been going on a long time and nobody does anything about it. I’d sack all the fitness and medical guys and get some good ones in. Like all things NUFC I’m an expert don’t you know 😆

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  37. Newcastles record against teams in the bottom third of the table is the second worst in the Premier League (with a points-per-game lower than everyone bar Aston Villa – 1.25 per game).

    Even more hope for us in our run in then.

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  38. Sham – I think if we were being fair and honest – based on form it would be Villa, us & Norwich who should go down.
    I take no pleasure in saying that, but those 3 teams (as well as the Scum) have been pretty awful this season – and Villa, Scum & us have been pretty fortunate in the last couple of season to avoid the drop.

    Even if we beat Liilestrom, I can’t see that game or this training camp having much of an impact on our form this season.

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  39. We need 5 win’s and one draw to stay up this season. It sounds unrealistic considering our defence and lack of fire power up front. Team’s around us need the same and wont give up without a fight. Sunderland have Defoe who is a better striker than we currently have. McClaren will take us down. Sorry but only my opinion.

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  40. Our overall points per game is less than 1 (the maths is very easy since we have played 26 and have 24 points) so we actually have a better PPG (points per game) against the bottom 3rd. We also need about 1.25 ppg for our next 12 games to be close to staying up. That is mid-table form but I am not sure if Schteve has that in him.

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  41. Psychs
    I’m never wrong. Always right . History shows it. The future will prove it. 😉 It’s babas genes. Eye nose zit.

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  42. I am also right about the ppg numbers and that we do NOT need League winning form (as Stuart thinks) to get out of this mess. I am right about other things but I will not bore you with them, that’s enough for now. You were a Carver supporter so I don’t even know why I give you the time of day.

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  43. Would like to see more of Mbabu next season. Along with several incoming and several outgoing. A more balanced squad please Lee you ninny.

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  44. A long time between matches for us. Many getting cranky on here. A lack of credibility within the club. Little belief from the supporters. Mainly because we’ve seen this story far too often. Even if McCarver survives to the end of the season he won’t be with us beyond that. Yet who would we get in place of him? The Operating Manual speaks to this:
    Chapter 8 Paragraph 6. Replacement of Head Coach/Manager. This can be a very difficult time at the club. We only hire top, top people to be the manager and there are few of those around. That’s why it’s so important to stay in touch with Joe Kinnear. 😯

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  45. I can see us getting 9-11 points from the remaining matches. In my heed I see us with 35 points at the end. Dazzling season Mike, Lee, and Steve. My crystal sphere is a bit murky these days. The league table at the bottom end is quite fogged in. Do I see Norwich with 36 points? Very difficult to tell. Colour me concerned lads.

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  46. Yes I definitely see our final totals now. Nine wins, eight draws for 35 points. 41 goals for, 67 goals against, -26 goal difference. But where are we in the standings? Dadblast it, the thing has fogged up again!

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  47. Anyway, it’s been a very exciting season as you promised Mike. Long runs in the cup, top players, a tremendous manager, a top, top Board. We’ve got it all thanks to you Mike…..

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  48. Troy @60 😆 . I’ve only talked sh&t today in order to get a glimpse into what your life must be like every day 😆

    Eric, ‘re: PPG…The post I put up earlier illustrates we are poor against the bottom teams and they do better than us against weaker teams. Hopefully the fact we are at home for several of them will balance that out though.

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  49. G2: did your crystal ball say if Steve will still be Manager? You never know, Defoe or Kane might get injured or we might get one of those decisions that other teams seem to get now and again – I think they are called penalties but I have seen so few of them for us that my mind gets as foggy as your crystal ball, I think that Cattermole conceded one at the SoS but the Ref didn’t agree.

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