IT takes a lot to get Newcastle United nice guy Haris Vuckic angry - but Alan Pardew has managed it.
The Slovenia international, in line for minutes in tonight’s Carling Cup encounter with Scunthorpe, is renowned in Newcastle’s inner circles as one of their most gracious, dedicated young professionals.
Talented, too – so much so that Pardew is looking for the young midfield schemer to play up to ten games this season. But that didn’t stop the United boss from giving him something to worry about.
Pardew said: “When I first arrived, I remember the staff saying to me, ‘Look, we’ve got a really good player, but you won’t see him for a while because he’s injured’.
“This tall, nice guy kept passing me on the corridor and that was really that for a while. He’s such a nice guy.
“After the win on Saturday, he asked whether he could have the day off on Sunday because we’d had such a great result. Steve Stone left him a slightly sarcastic message more or less saying, ‘You’ve insulted the gaffer and he’ll be expecting you in’.
“He then went on to say, ‘No, the gaffer has said you can have the rest of the weekend off’, but he only listened to the first half.
“So he turned up on Sunday – him and Mehdi (Abeid) – and they had a nice lunch on their own. They both came in together on Tuesday to chastise me, so it was quite funny when we got to the bottom of it.
“That’s the sort of lad he is – he’s a lovely boy and we really have high hopes for him. He has tremendous technique – that’s his asset.
“The physical power and demands of the Premier League is the only thing he has to learn, but I think he will get there. I think he will be a (good) Newcastle player.”
If his trusting demeanour made him a prime target for a practical joke, Vuckic’s potential is no laughing matter.
Just 19, but tall and with sufficient power not to be knocked off the ball easily, the midfielder has long impressed onlookers at Newcastle’s Benton training base with his technique.
Pardew certainly delivers a glowing testimonial when asked why he is so well regarded.
He added: “I can see why there was excitement about him because I think he has in him a pass for a central midfield player that you would class as a clever pass.
“It’s a pass that 85% of the Premier League wouldn’t see, but of course he still has to get a lot of other traits.
“I’m expecting him to feature and play in about ten games this season, and coming back from the injury he’s had, I think that would be a good target for him.
“Then next year, I’d hope he was pushing for a first-team place, and I think it’s possible.”
If he did make a breakthrough this year, it would be a well-deserved reward for a player who has put his all into his English move.
Homesick at first, his father was a constant crutch and companion as he went through the settling-in process in his new North East home.
But now so much a Geordie that he admits he “hates Sunderland” like the rest of the Toon Army, Vuckic is ready for the next leap forward.
“At the start, I was scared about moving to England,” he said. “I was here with my father, but now he is back in Slovenia and I feel comfortable being all by myself. I know I can do this by myself now.
“I enjoy being out in the city, meeting the fans. All the city lives with the club, and for me that is so good. In Slovenia, we don’t have that kind of support.
“When I came here, I thought it was great. You would be running for ths bus and supporters would be stopping you to try to get you to sign things.”
If Vuckic manages to progress, it will be the first notable success of the Mike Ashley policy of splashing out big money on potential.
It will also represent a major tick in the box for the club’s avowed policy of giving youth its chance – something Vuckic, unsurprisingly, sees as a huge positive.
“The manager seems keen to give young players a chance and that is a good thing for people like me,” he said. “It is even good just to go along to the first-team matches to sample what they are like and get used to them.
“You get more experience and that makes you stronger.
“I think this season could be a good season for a few of the young players at the club. The manager will give us a chance if we show him what we can do, we will get our chances.”
If that comes at Glanford Park tonight, Vuckic will make sure he’s ready. Two bad injuries in two seasons have given him an appetite and hunger to match his spot-on attitude – and there is goodwill towards such a dedicated professional, too.
“I hope I can take the next step up in my career this season,” he said.
“I thought I played well in pre-season and did well in a few games. Hopefully, I will get a chance to show that kind of form in the first team this season.
“I just have to keep working hard in training, and if the manager gives me a chance, I will give my maximum to try to keep a place in the team.”