Matchwinner Christian Atsu hopes that he has given Rafa Benitez a selection headache at Newcastle United.
The on-loan Chelsea winger replaced Matt Ritchie for Saturday’s Championship trip to bottom club Rotherham United, and Atsu repaid boss Rafa Benitez’s faith with a fine winning goal.
“I was waiting for my time,” said the 24-year-old, who cut inside from the right onto his favoured left foot in the 41st minute and curled his effort beyond the reach of helpless home keeper Lee Camp.
“I knew I would have my opportunity.
“I was more focused on training to keep myself fit. I knew, for sure, that he would give me a chance.
“He will give everybody a chance.
“Sometimes you have to give the coach a headache when he makes his selection.
“Each day I try to work hard for Newcastle. I want the team to win. This is more important.
“I want to help the team most, and to help the team you have to be on the pitch.
“I want to play with all my heart.”
On his goal, Atsu added: “That’s what I want to do ... always be on the right side, and when I cut to my left (foot) I can shoot. It was a great goal. I wanted to score, and I scored.”
Third-placed Newcastle are three points behind league leaders Huddersfield Town, who, along with Norwich City, in second place, also won on Saturday in the fiercely-competitive division.
Reflecting on the Magpies’ 1-0 win, Atsu added; “It’s not easy, it’s really difficult to win here. They were good at set-pieces, but we defended really well under pressure.
“Sometimes, a goal can make a difference, and when we scored, we were much more calm. It was very important.”
Rotherham performed well and hit the woodwork in each half through Jon Taylor and Dominic Ball’s deflected effort in the final five minutes. Boss Alan Stubbs feels his side are improving.
The ex-Sunderland defender said: “We are certainly getting better.
“When you’re down there a little bit of luck deserts you but you have to make your own luck in this game. There were positives out of the display but not out of the result.
“For me, it was a step in the right direction.
“If they keep performing like they have done in the last couple of games then it won’t be long until they start picking up points. I’ve got no doubts about that.”
Rotherham: Camp, Halford, Fry, Ball, Fisher, Taylor, Adeyemi (Vaulks 26), Frecklington, Newell (Blackstock 73), Brown, Ward. Subs not used: Wood, Forde, Forster-Caskey, Price, K Wilson. Booked: Frecklington, Ward.
Newcastle: Darlow, Anita, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett, Atsu (Ritchie 67), Shelvey, Colback, Gouffran, Diame (Hanley 87), Gayle (Mitrovic 79). Subs not used: Hayden, Mbemba, Yedlin, Sels. Booked: Diame. Goal: Atsu 41.
Att: 11,653. Ref: Roger East (Wiltshire).