Enrique finally finding his feet at Newcastle
DESPITE their relegation to the Championship in the summer, Jose Enrique has admitted that he has never been happier in more than two years on Tyneside. Throughout his first two seasons as a Premier League footballer, the Spaniard was stung by criticism from the stands after a number of disappointing displays following his move from Villarreal. The 23-year-old found life hard in the North-East, particularly last season when Newcastle struggled, and ultimately failed, to stave off the threat of relegation. However, after a summer in which a number of high profile players have departed, the dressing room has become a more relaxed environment something which Enrique feels has contributed to Newcastles relative success. I dont know why, but the team seems more together this year. We have an excellent spirit, whether it is the English players or the foreign ones like me, said Enrique. We are all in this together and we are all working hard for the club. It is similar players to last season but it feels different. The atmosphere is much better and everybody is happy. We have seen that in the games, when we score a goal, everyone celebrates together, everyone is pleased for each other. That is why results have been good, everyone is together. Its the happiest Ive been as a Newcastle player because it is a happy place to be. When Sam Allardyce agreed to pay £6.5m for Enrique in July 2007, Newcastle fans instantly expected a world-class defender who would maraude down the left flank on a regular basis. But the former Spain Under-21 international was ojnly 21 when he signed and he feels that life in the Championship is actually helping to make him, and his teammates, better players. Im still learning and Im still developing, said Enrique, who has shrugged off a hamstring problem to play at Nottingham Forest tonight. I will be better for this experience this season, we all will be. Everybody would have preferred to stay in the Premier League, but we made mistakes and we are paying for them. In the summer I made up my mind that I wanted to stay and make up for those mistakes and get Newcastle back into the Premier League. It is a different experience and it has been a hard one because relegation was very painful for the team and me, but in the long term I will be better off for it. It is all experience and you learn from that. If we can go straight back up after just one year, I think this will have been a good experience because it has toughened me up as a player. Everyone wants to go straight back up and that is what we aim to do.
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