It’s no secret that Newcastle fans have become, how can we say this, disgruntled at their team’s style of play this season.
And in fairness – it’s difficult to disagree with them.
While the Magpies may be well clear of the relegation zone, there’s more to a club like Newcastle than just surviving.
The foundations are there for the club to build upon and become one of England’s elite sides, and subsequently ‘staying in the Premier League’ shouldn’t be an objective that is ever muttered in the Newcastle boardroom.
Nevertheless, regardless of their season goals, Newcastle should be fun – and not ‘fun’ in the sense their club replicates a circus (because they’ve long since achieved that), but fun in the sense they’re entertaining and they give the fans something to look forward to.
Steve Bruce’s abject football has become tedious to watch at times this season, and the root cause of said style is the midfield. Plenty of money has been spent on forwards and widemen in previous transfer windows, but if Jeff Hendrick is the man supplying said players then it’s just not going to work.
The arrival of Joe Willock on loan from Arsenal in the January transfer window certainly looked to be a step in the right direction, but with very little Premier League football under his belt this season, it looked a tall order for him to go straight into the Magpies starting XI and essentially rejuvenate the club.
He did all of that and more against Southampton on Saturday.
At just 21 years of age, the youngster slotted into the Newcastle midfield like he’d played there all his life, adding a drive, a tempo and an enthusiasm that hasn’t been seen in a Magpies team for many a year.
His linkup play with the likes of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin proved key to unlocking the Southampton backline, and it’s no coincidence that in his maiden appearance for the club, Newcastle scored three Premier League goals for just the second time this season.
His ability to distribute and carry the ball added a dimension to Newcastle’s play that’s been sorely lacking of late, and would no doubt have had the 52,000 fans in attendance on their feet given the chance.
The youngster capped his display with a goal, displaying the nous to hang back from the attack before arriving late into the box and coolly slotting home Saint-Maximin’s pull back.
All in all it was about as well-rounded a display from a player wearing black and white stripes as Newcastle fans will have seen in a long time, and to say it came from a 21-year-old in his first game for the club is quite something.
Given time to find his feet on Tyneside there’s no knowing how much Willock can improve Newcastle, but his debut has certainly given the Toon Army something to be excited about.