One of the biggest issues at Newcastle United over the last decade has been development of young talent. Rolando Aarons has been one of the few young players at the club with the potential to be special. As he enters the 2017-18 season, it may be his last chance to fulfill that potential in the black and white stripes.
Rolando Aarons arrived on Tyneside in 2012, as a 16 year old kid just released by the club where he spent his entire youth career. After playing for Newcastle’s youth squads for two years, he was ready to make his senior team debut. Aarons gave Newcastle fans hope straight away with a preseason goal against Schalke 04, and was sure to be a fixture in the season’s starting XI.
Rolando Aarons followed up his bright preseason with a big performance in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace, netting his first Newcastle goal from a set piece and adding a go-ahead assist on a crazy play. At this point, the kid had officially arrived. He was ready to take center stage in a side that desperately needed a lifeline.
However, his biggest enemy made it’s first appearance: Injury.
Aarons came back from international duty with the England U20 side with a hamstring injury. He would have to work his way back from that and try to earn his place in the first team again: which he did with his incredible performance against Man City in the League Cup, a rare Cup victory under Alan Pardew.
But once again, Aarons was hampered by another hamstring injury less than a month after lighting up the pitch against City. The rest of his 2014-15 season was lost, as he would work to recover from injury.
To start the 2015-16 season, Rolando found his way into the lineup four times within the first month of the schedule. But once again, he was bitten by the injury bug, and was sidelined for a whopping four months. His on and off relationship with the trainers table would continue for the whole of Newcastle’s relegation season, but Aarons wouldn’t leave the Mags without a glimmer of hope into the Championship season. In the season finale at home to Spurs, a game which Newcastle won 5-1, Aarons found his way onto the score sheet and showed supporters that he was ready for the next season’s challenge.
The now 20 year old winger played in all five of NUFC’s first five fixtures in 2016-17, but, to little surprise, was hit with a brutal ACL injury. Aarons would miss the rest of Newcastle’s promotion season.
Fast forward to the present: Aarons, fresh off signing a new five-year contract in August, is more determined than ever to put his injuries behind him and earn a spot in Rafa Benitez’s team sheet.
And I think he will.
Aarons is one of the most gifted players on Newcastle United’s books. He has shown his class against some of the Goliath's of the Premier League, has been compared to Raheem Sterling, and was near an England call-up at the time of his hamstring injury in 2014.
Furthermore, Newcastle have a gaping hole at the left wing position. They seemingly cannot complete even the most simple of transfers, involving a player that is keen to play here (Florian Lejenue) and who’s current club is willing to sell. This is Rolando Aarons’ chance to shine. With Rafa Benitez’s fitness coach replacing the fitness coaches that oversaw some of the worst fitness records in the Premier League over the past decade, Aarons should be able to avoid the nagging hamstring injuries that plagued him in the past.
If Aarons can stay on the pitch, he will prove to be a vital part of Benitez’s first full Premier League season at the helm of Newcastle United.