MIKE WILLIAMSON has denied that Newcastle United’s players lack the heart and desire required to turn their faltering season around, and has promised a strong reaction when the club returns to action against Aston Villa in ten days time.
The Magpies’ miserable recent run continued on Wednesday night as they shipped four goals without reply to Tottenham and slumped to their sixth defeat in the last eight league matches.
While Alan Pardew’s side remain comfortably positioned in the top half of the table, they have lost four home league games in a row in the same season for the first time since 1978 and appear to be drifting towards the end of a campaign that held out the potential for a European place as recently as two months ago.
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There was a mounting sense of anger in St James’ Park on Wednesday, with supporters criticising the home side’s perceived lack of effort and Pardew admitting his side did not give “life and limb” for the cause.
Williamson accepts that recent results have been nowhere near good enough, but denies that his team-mates are unconcerned at their team’s plight.
“It might have come across to the fans that there was no heart, and that’s a disappointing thing,” said the centre-half. “Sometimes, the fans can be a little bit unfair, but you can’t say that over the past few games. They are justified, and we completely understand their anger and upset.
“But believe me, the players in there are feeling exactly the same. Now, it is all about getting that reaction and making sure we can convey our spirit and fight against Villa, when we’ve got to bounce back.
“What we have had at this club in years gone by is a reaction, and so when things like this do happen, the lads pull together on the training ground and go back to the basics of working hard and making sure we are compact and solid. Hopefully, that’s where we are going to go.”
Having defended his players after previous defeats and rejected suggestions that Newcastle’s season is already effectively over, Pardew issued a number of home truths in the wake of his side’s latest reverse.
The Newcastle boss spent longer than usual in the dressing room addressing his players and did not shy away from criticising their performance in the wake of a defeat that equalled the opening-weekend reverse at Manchester City as the joint-heaviest of the campaign.
Williamson feels that Pardew’s anger was justified, and admits the players have let down their manager in recent matches.
“We’ve seen that side to him before,” he said. “Every now and again, when it is necessary, he tears into us, but there needed to be some harsh words said because he felt it wasn’t good enough from the players out there on the pitch.
“First, you do it for yourself, then the manager and the fans and the club. That’s where it builds from, but yeah, we have let the manager down.
“We have let the fans down and we have let ourselves down, so it is all about getting back to the basics now.”
In the last break created by Newcastle’s non-involvement in the FA Cup, Pardew took his players on a sunshine trip to Dubai.
Unsurprisingly, there will be no such away day this time around, and the squad were instructed to report to training earlier than usual yesterday morning to enable a lengthy debrief to begin.
With Fabricio Coloccini, Cheik Tiote and Loic Remy all expected to be available to face Aston Villa a week on Sunday, there will be changes to the starting line-up for Newcastle’s next game. It remains to be seen, however, whether a change in attitude is also forthcoming.
“Sometimes, it can be good for players to get away and forget about things, but there are other times when, ultimately, it is good to get back to the training ground, get back to the drawing board and work hard and get back to basics,” said Williamson.
“That’s what he (Pardew) has decided here, and rightly so. We can have no complaints. We were back in first thing and that’s fully justified. The players understand that because we all know we’ve got to get back and show the desire to put the work in which helps us get back to winning ways.”
* Shola Ameobi has been named in the Nigeria squad for next month’s friendly with Mexico. The game, which will act as a World Cup warm up for both nations, will be staged in the US city of Atlanta on March 5.