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Diego Gavilán backing Almirón to be a big hit with Newcastle fans

Written by Dan King

Miguel Almirón will be a big hit at Newcastle United - according to the only other Paraguayan to play for the Magpies.

Diego Gavilán joined the Magpies as a 19-year-old from Cerro Porteño - the club where Almirón started his career - in January 2000.

Nicknamed 'Sparrowhawk' on account of his speed, he made his debut in a Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland and scored his first goal for the club in a 2-0 win over Coventry City two months later.

After spending three years at St. James' Park under the tutelage of Sir Bobby Robson, he signed for Internacional and went on to be named in Paraguay's squad for the 2006 World Cup finals.

Now 38 and working as a coach in Brazil, Gavilán only made seven Premier League appearances for United, but remains something of a cult figure with the Newcastle supporters.

He believes, however, that his compatriot Almirón will make a bigger impact following his deadline day move from Atlanta United.

"Miguel Almiron is a fast player with good mobility and skills as well," he told nufc.co.uk. "He normally adapts quickly to training methodologies and coaches' styles.

"I've know him since he was 18 and I've followed his career since the beginning in Cerro, passing by Lanús, Atlanta and the national team. He is a good boy and an extraordinary person."

Gavilán was the first Paraguayan to play in the Premier League when he arrived 19 years ago, but since then the likes of Roque Santa Cruz, Antolín Alcaraz and current West Ham defender Fabián Balbuena have shone in England's top flight.

And Gavilán says that Almirón's signing is big news in the South American country, which has a population of about seven million.

"People from Paraguay are happy about his achievements," Gavilán said of the Newcastle new boy. "He is a player loved by everybody and is very important for us.

"I think this step will make him get to a higher level in terms of competitiveness. It is always good to be in one of the best leagues in the world. It is good for us to have players like him and Balbuena in this level."

Reflecting on his own time at St. James' Park, Gavilán insisted: "I always had, and will have, the best memories about Newcastle; of the fans, the people and the way they cared about me.

"I was 19 when I got there and I had one of the most important opportunities in my professional life. To be coached by Sir Bobby Robson and have colleagues like Alan Shearer, Gary Speed and friends like Nol Solano, Clarence Acuña and Christian Bassedas is something that I will always remember.

"(I have) no regrets. Newcastle was a top competitive level during my time and helped me to grow up. I would like have gone with more maturity perhaps."

He added: "The Premier League is tough and competitive, but I think Almirón had tough steps as well, such as Lanús, where the game is very physical.

"He always has the opponents' goal as a target and, knowing the Newcastle supporters, I think Almirón and them will have a really nice relationship."

"He always has the opponents' goal as a target and, knowing the Newcastle supporters, I think Almiron and them will have a really nice relationship."

Diego Gavilán

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