THE ADAGE of a football season being all about how it ends and not how it starts is one that rings true for Vurnon Anita.
A Leeds United summer signing, he was in the Newcastle United side that started last season with back-to-back defeats against Fulham and Huddersfield Town.
That second triumph, for David Wagner’s then unfancied side, had the alarm bells ringing among the St James’ Park support, but the doom-mongers were eventually silenced as the Magpies went on to claim a Premier League return as champions.
Anita played a full part, the defender from the Dutch colony of Curacao in the Caribbean making 28 appearances either side of an ankle injury that kept him out for two months early in the year.
Newcastle’s promotion is why the 28-year-old refuses to read too much into how the season has started at his new club. That said, Anita does believe there are traits in Thomas Christiansen’s side that were evident in last season’s title winners.
“I think there are a lot of similarities,” he said. “But, this year, we started the league better than last season so we are a little bit more confident this season.
“It is, though, a long league and you have to keep on going every game, taking it step by step.
“We are really, really confident, but this is just the first month. With Newcastle, we had a bad start and finished first.
“You need to stay focused and work hard every game and take it step by step. There is a lot of ambition at the club and we want to get promoted and that is a difficult thing, but the fans want that also as well.
“We know there is pressure on us, but until now we are showing that we can deal with the pressure.
“But it is the first month and we need to keep on improving and keep on doing the same things.”
United head to Nottingham Forest for their final league outing before the season’s first international break, just as they did last season.
The club’s results, though, could not be more contrasting with defeat at the City Ground on the final day of August a year ago leaving Garry Monk’s men with just four points from the opening five fixtures.
This time around, United already have eight points to their name before taking on a Forest side who have started the campaign with three wins and a defeat to Barnsley.
Mark Warburton’s men are also fresh from knocking out Anita’s former employers from the Carabao Cup at St James’ Park in midweek.
Christiansen is well aware how tough today’s clash will be as he keeps one eye on the club’s attempts to strengthen in the final days of the transfer window.
“I believe that with one (more) striker we will be very satisfied with the squad that we have,” said the Dane, who confirmed his intent to keep hold of Stuart Dallas amid interest from Norwich City.
“There is a lot of competitiveness in the squad but I need a player like Stuart,” said the Leeds head coach, who confirmed several clubs have enquired about former England international Rob Green.
As for Anita, he has already justified United’s determination to bring in someone on a free transfer who had made 151 appearances in five years at Newcastle after joining in a £6.8m deal from Ajax.
He had already played 124 times for the Dutch side by the time of that 2012 departure from Amsterdam and been capped four times by Holland, underlining why Christiansen was so happy to get Anita on board earlier this summer.
Part of that will no doubt be down to Anita’s versatility; having started his career in midfield he has gone on to play right across the back four.
“I am a player that can play in multiple positions so it wasn’t something new,” said Anita.
“I tried to help the team and do more than my best. I think I have gone good. But I can always be better of course.
“I am improving every day and learning about my new team mates as well. I think, for myself, my best position is midfield.
“Last season I played a lot of times at right-back but I am happy to play – if that is left-back or right-back or even striker.
“It is for me just to play and get my minutes and show everyone what I have got. We are winning at the moment and it is a good feeling so we have to keep going.”