By Tom Easterby
Kevin Mbabu is hoping to cap his return from injury with some silverware as Newcastle United's second string take on Blyth Spartans in the Techflow Group Northumberland FA Senior Cup final on Tuesday night (7pm kick-off).
The Swiss under-19 international played the entirety of last week's stalemate with Manchester City Under-21s - the first time the powerful defender has gone the distance since before Christmas, having battled back from hamstring and ankle problems.
"I was happy to play 90 minutes, because the last time I played 90 minutes was in December so I was really glad to play," explained the 18-year-old.
"We had a good performance, so I'm happy for the team and happy for me. I'm getting my confidence back, so I'm happy for that.
"It's been a really difficult season for me. It's the first time I've had two really big injuries in a row, so I was a bit disappointed - no, I was frustrated - but I thought that after the injuries I would come back better and stronger.
"I think I'm getting stronger and I think I'm better now. I'm improving, even if I was injured for a while."
The former Servette youngster, who joined the Magpies towards the end of the January 2013 transfer window, now has Tom Wade's Spartans in his sights as he bids to end an injury-ravaged campaign on a high.
"I always look forward to playing at St. James' Park. It's all our dream to play at St. James' Park. We all want to play in front of 50,000 fans," explained Mbabu.
"There will be less fans (on Tuesday), but it's still really good to play in this stadium - it's special."
Mbabu played at centre-half against a strong City side on Monday, turning in a performance that Football Development Manager Peter Beardsley described as "outstanding".
Now, the former United hero has turned his side's attentions to Tuesday's final, giving a nod to the EvoStik Premier side's giant-killing past.
"I went to watch them recently and they were the better team certainly over the two (semi-final) games against Ashington, so they'll be good opponents and it's a big experience for Blyth as well," said Beardsley.
"You could tell at the final whistle they were delighted to get to St. James', it's almost like their Wembley if you know what I mean, so we're looking forward to it.
"They've got very close to the play-offs with Tom (Wade) and he's done a great job for them, there's no doubt about it, and when you talk about the North-East, you talk about Blyth Spartans - the happy days they had in the 1970s, on our famous pitch.
"I was a fan in those days and I went to those games, when they played Wrexham and things like that, so they're great memories, and obviously for Blyth, it's an chance to come to St. James' and, from their point of view, hopefully beat us."