Minteh: 'It's a great opportunity for me'
Written by Luke Vinton
Following a bright start to his loan spell at Feyenoord, Yankuba Minteh believes he is "developing a lot both on and off the pitch” in the early stages of his footballing career.
The Gambian teenager joined Newcastle United from Danish Superliga side Odense Boldklub (OB) in July before being immediately loaned out to the Eredivisie champions and has registered three goals and an assist in his last six Dutch top-flight appearances.
As well as competing on the European stage for Arne Slot's side in the UEFA Champions League, Minteh also made his international debut for the Gambia national team in September, scoring on his senior bow to help the Scorpions secure qualification for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations.
Speaking at Feyenoord's training complex in Rotterdam, Minteh told nufc.co.uk: "Everything is going well so far at Feyenoord. It's a good team and I am surrounded by good people so it's been a positive start. The standard of football here is very good and I'm trying to work as hard as possible everyday in training and matches.
"The coaches and players in the squad have given me a lot of advice and tried to help me a lot. If I don't understand something, they are there to explain it to me so I fully understand what they want.
"I feel I'm developing a lot both on and off the pitch. Playing in Holland is different to Denmark. It's a lot bigger with a different culture and there's a lot of top players in every position on the pitch.
"That was something I found hard when I first arrived but I think I'm coping with it and I've been able to take my chance in the team. I feel I'm getting stronger everyday, both physically and mentally."
Minteh scoring his first goal for Feyenoord in a 5-1 win against FC Utrecht in September
A highly coveted prospect, Minteh made the bold decision to leave his native homeland to join OB as a 17-year-old and made an instant impact on his Danish Superliga debut, scoring the winning goal within three minutes of his introduction against champions FC Copenhagen before going on to record four goals and six assists during his maiden season at senior level.
The Gambian forward reflected on his move to Tyneside last summer as well as highlighting the benefits of his spells in Denmark and the Netherlands, both as a footballer and a young man.
"This is a dream come true for anyone," the 19-year-old added. "Every footballer wants to play in the top five leagues in Europe and the Premier League is number one if you're counting a top division.
"It's a great opportunity for me. Newcastle is a big club and I see they like a lot of young players which is a reason why I wanted to join. I just need to continue working hard whilst at Feyenoord.
"Everyone in Gambia is trying to get out of the country and play in Europe because that's where everyone can see you and it can help you in a financial way as you can get paid more than playing in Africa.
"These moves have helped me so much. I have a different life, knowing how to eat well and focussing on my football. It's the thing I have chosen to do since I was young, my dream, and now I have achieved that dream of becoming a professional footballer."
The promising attacker, who cites Lionel Messi as his footballing idol, has fond memories of watching the Premier League as a youngster, highlighting a number of United forwards, past and present, he has admired over the years.
"Everyone wants to play in the Premier League growing up," he said. "It's a league which the whole world watches.
"I used to be a fan of Hatem Ben Arfa when he was Newcastle and I enjoyed the way he played. I liked Demba Ba and Papiss Cissé too but, now, I'm looking up to Miguel Almirón, a winger like myself, as I believe we have a similar playing style.
"My main strengths as a footballer is my pace. I am able to run quite fast and I like to dribble, beating defenders in one-on-one situations and scoring goals. Dribbling is one of the things I enjoy most when playing on the pitch."
Minteh making his UEFA Champions League debut in a 2-0 win against Celtic in September
Minteh, who hails from Bakoteh, marked his international debut for Gambia in goalscoring fashion, sparking a two-goal comeback to salvage a 2-2 draw against Congo, securing qualification for the African Cup of Nations finals for only the second time in the country's history.
After recovering from a recent muscle injury, the highly-rated teenager is aiming to build on a positive year both at club and international level.
"It was a great moment to make my international debut for Gambia," he said. "That was another I had dreamt of since I was little. I came off the bench for the second half and I was very motivated by the players and coaches surrounded with me, telling the team we could achieve our goal.
"I was pleased to score too and help my country qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations because another aim for me is to play in that tournament with Gambia.
"I want to get as many goals and assists as I can this season. I've played in the Champions League this season which I've enjoyed. It has been a dream of mine since I was young to play in this competition so I'm very happy to have done that."
"It's a great opportunity for me. Newcastle is a big club and I see they like a lot of young players which is a reason why I wanted to join. I just need to continue working hard whilst at Feyenoord."