Garth Crooks raves about Kevin Mbabu's first start, reconsiders verdict on McClaren

Steve McClaren

Garth Crooks has praised Kevin Mbabu's performance for Newcastle against Chelsea.

Pundit Garth Crooks has told BBC Sport that Kevin Mbabu's Premier League debut for Newcastle couldn't have gone much better.

Newcastle went in to their game with Chelsea off the back of a 1-0 Capital One Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, whilst they were without a win in their six Premier League games.

Expectations were low, but goals from Ayoze Perez and Georginio Wijnaldum put Newcastle 2-0 up at St. James' Park, before Ramires and William struck to hand Chelsea a point in a 2-2 draw.

The game also featured a first Premier League start for defender Kevin Mbabu, who had previously been an afterthought on Tyneside.

Mbabu, 20, spent half of last season on loan at Rangers without even playing a game, and didn't once make the bench in the Scottish Championship either - yet here he was, thrown in to the Newcastle starting line-up at left back against the Premier League champions.

The Swiss youngster impressed though, keeping Blues winger Pedro quiet in a surprisingly assured display and his impressive performance didn't go unnoticed.

Pundit Garth Crooks named Mbabu in his Team of the Week on BBC Sport, and explained how impressed he was with Mbabu's display - before admitting that he may have to reconsider his opinion of Magpies boss Steve McClaren having criticised him recently.

"As far as Premier League debuts go, I don't think Kevin Mbabu could have done any better," said Crooks. "The 20-year-old was playing against Spain international Pedro, who for much of the game got nothing out of the youngster, which tells you all you need to know about the quality of this performance."

"Last week on Final Score I questioned whether Newcastle boss Steve McClaren could manage as effectively as he could coach. The jury is still out for me but if he has the courage to play youngsters such as Mbabu, who are keen to prove themselves against the champions, at the expense of players who have been tried but are comfortable then I may have misjudged him," he added.

It's Manchester City next up for Newcastle, and Mbabu may well start again in another daunting task for the youngster - but if he can continue to reproduce the quality of his display against Chelsea, the Magpies may have stumbled across a future first team regular.

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