Under-fire Newcastle star in line for Sunderland

COURAGE ... Vurnon Anita against Arsenal.
COURAGE ... Vurnon Anita against Arsenal.
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UNDER-FIRE Vurnon Anita has been given a vote of confidence ahead the Wear-Tyne derby – because of his “courage”.

Anita, a contender to start against Sunderland this weekend, has endured another tough season on Tyneside.

He didn’t go hiding, and that’s important for me.

John Carver

The midfielder was replaced at half-time against Manchester City last month after conceding a penalty with just 30 seconds on the clock.

But the Magpies’ injury crisis saw him recalled to the starting line-up for the 2-1 defeat against Arsenal, the last game before the current international break.

And head coach John Carver praised the Dutchman for his attitude – despite admitting he didn’t produce a good performance.

Carver said: “I’ve said to Vurnon Anita that he didn’t have a great day – but he never went missing.

“He didn’t go hiding, and that’s important for me.

“It’s easy when there’s 52,000 people out there to go missing, but he showed great courage to continue to try and get on the ball.

“And what he did do defensively, he did some good jobs for us.”

Carver’s words of encouragement – coupled with his threadbare squad – means that Anita could keep his place against Sunderland on Sunday, even if fit-again Mehdi Abeid returns to the squad.

Abeid has missed the Tynesiders’ last two games with a thigh injury. But Carver is hopeful that the Algerian – back in training – will be fit for the game at the Stadium of Light.

Defender Massadio Haidara is sidelined for the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery last week.

And versatile former Sunderland midfielder Jack Colback will be needed to fill in at left-back again, meaning Anita, Abeid or Jonas Gutierrez – who came off the bench against Arsenal – are all vying to line up alongside stand-in skipper Moussa Sissoko in central midfield.

Carver was heartened by the character his patched-up team showed in the second half against Arsenal, who led 2-0 at the break.

“Sometimes when you’re down to the bare bones, people come together and stick together, and I’ve certainly seen that in the performance,” said Carver.