Vurnon Anita admits he has an extra reason to want his Newcastle United place back – to keep alive his World Cup dream.
Manager Alan Pardew spoke in the summer about what a source of motivation next year’s tournament would be for his squad.
Dutchman Anita is one of a clutch of players who can have realistic ambitions of playing in Brazil.
The Netherlands have already qualified, but Anita was left out of the squads for games against Hungary last night and Turkey on Tuesday, despite a promising start to the season.
With Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote showing signs of returning to form at Cardiff City last week, the 24-year-old faces a real fight just to tie down a regular place in his club side.
Anita can consider himself unfortunate, but he was nevertheless an unused substitute in South Wales.
“I would love to get to the World Cup but I have to take it step by step and my first priority is for my club,” the former Ajax player pointed out.
“I need to play well to get into the national team. I really hope I can regain my place in the Netherlands squad.
“I think they are looking at everyone and if you play a lot of football and perform well, you will get selected, but first things first and Newcastle are my priority.
“If I do well, it benefits everyone, team and myself too. But yes, of course, I want to play in the World Cup – and this is a good start.”
Anita has been capped three times by his country, having played for the age-group teams. He struggled to adapt to English football in his debut season, but has looked much more impressive since returning for pre-season in the summer.
In the absence of any permanent signings, Pardew’s hope was always that competition for places, with the incentive of a World Cup at the end of it, would raise the performance levels from within his squad.
Newcastle have a very strong French influence and Anita hopes playing alongside the likes of Cabaye, Moussa Sissoko and Hatem Ben Arfa can improve his game.
He said: “They are very very good footballers but I think everyone learns from each other in this system.”
Anita brings a calming presence to Newcastle’s midfield, but Pardew seems to prefer the more aggressive Tiote as a counter-balance to Cabaye and Sissoko.
For his part, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal has preferred Kevin Strootman and the fit-again Nigel De Jong as holding midfielders.
Newcastle striker Loic Remy is determined to maintainthe high standards he set inthe first few weeks of his Magpies career when he returns from international duty with France.
Remy, on a season-long loan from Queens Park Rangers, has scored five goals in his first four starts for his new club, prompting calls for them to make the move permanent.
“I just have to keep going like this and do the best every game,” Remy told Newcastle’s official website.
“I want to score three goals or four goals every game.
“I’m a striker and sometimes one or two goals is not enough for the team.
“The more I can score the better.”
Meanwhile, PSV Eindhoven claim there has been no concrete interest from the Magpies in their goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet.
The 22-year-old goalkeeper was linked with Newcastle this summer, and signing a four-year contract has done nothing to silence speculation Newcastle could be ready to make a £7m bid.
However, a spokesman for PSV claimed the club have no plans to sell, saying: “The step-by-step plan we had with Jeroen is going well and the club are satisfied with his development.
“All these questions have not arisen.
“These points mentioned in the English media have not been brought up.”