Henri Saivet’s played more times for the U-23 during Rafa’s reign than he has in the NUFC first team, but the forgotten man was handed his first start under the Spaniard yesterday – and I’m delighted to see just how he took it.
His inclusion was a shock, but Rafa had little choice with Shelvey banned and Hayden/Merino both missing with knocks. Fans feared the worst when seeing he and Diame were set to be our midfield partnership, but they were in for a surprise.
In fairness, it start awfully. Five minutes in and his stray pass allowed Arnautovic to get in on goal and put them 1-0 up.
It was a woeful start us and he looked genuinely devastated, but the Senegalese international’s response from them on out deserves real recognition – as does his revealing big interview that he gave back in September (something that reads so well after what we’ve witnessed him do yesterday). His superb free kick gave us a much needed quick response and he worked tirelessly for the rest of the game and did not look out of place in the middle of midfield.
As his words in the interview below highlights and his work on the pitch yesterday proves, he’s done the exact opposite of what most modern players would have done in his situation at the club.
Banished to the reserves and barely given a look in by Benitez, he’s remained determined to make something of his NUFC career. He’s worked hard in training and remained patient that his chance would come. Yesterday he got it and he took it with both hands.
Yes he made a costly mistake early on, but he showed real character to respond, scoring a superb free-kick and putting in a solid performance from then on in.
Here’s the refreshing interview he gave back in September – which after his West Ham heroics reads all the better:
“I have to show him (Rafa) I can play in his team. I have to play very well in each training session or reserve game.
“He has told me to show what I can do and we need everybody in the squad so I will keep going. Maybe one day I will get my chance and show what I can do. I know there will be a chance.
“In football you know you can start a season in the stand or on the bench, but finish it in the team. You just never know but I am ready to play at any time. I have to stay fit. I will play for the reserves.
“The season is long and it is about improving as you go along so that’s what I’ll do. You have to work and keep going.
“You should never complain about not playing – the most important thing is the squad. We have to win and stay in the Premier League as we’ve just come back.
“It won’t be easy so individuals can’t complain about personal situations. It’s always easier of course when you are fit and can play. You run everywhere and try to do everything.
“Not playing isn’t easy for a footballer. You have to work hard to get back in contention. If get my chance I will have to keep my place. I will try my best every time.”
“It’s a massive club. The city and its people are really nice.
“The weather is different, but the city is really nice no matter what the weather.”
Fair play to the lad. Keep scoring free kicks like this and putting in that sort of shift and maybe he might just feature more prominently in Rafa’s NUFC plans.
He’s a bit of a set-piece specialist you know..
Saivet's free-kick! (Via @eurogoalGIF) ??⚫️⚪️⚫️
— Black&WhiteBarmy (@BlackWhiteBarmy) December 23, 2017
Seems as though Saivet’s got previous, scored this earlier in the year. pic.twitter.com/Wuavnqd7xD
— John (@jbxnufc) December 23, 2017