By Matt Fortune
Without a win since October, Newcastle are plummeting down the league. A much-improved display at Blackburn last week failed to prevent another defeat and the fans have voiced their discontent.
However, battling qualities can be found in abundance right through the ranks from manager Sam Allardyce to players like Joey Barton and Alan Smith. The Toon Army must remain patient after what has only been a few months under a new regime.
We spoke to Lee Ryder of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle ahead of Arsenal's visit to St James' Park on Wednesday. Read on for an insight into why patience is a virtue on Tyneside, the array of new faces, how injuries have blighted the campaign and the unequivocal support from 52,000 Geordies.
THE STORY SO FAR
"It's been a transitional period for us with the new manager coming in. He came in and made a lot of changes with his backroom staff and some players coming in. So it was always going to take time to settle, but as we know football is all about results and at the minute they have only got one point from a possible 15. Hopefully this is our bad patch for the season. The new boss absolutely needs to be given time though. It is a three-year project but fans are unhappy and hopefully he can turn a corner. If you look at Arsenal you see that good things in football will take time. Look at how long Wenger has been at Arsenal and he has been given time to lay the foundations and it is all coming to a head with the success there.
"Maybe the results at the beginning of the season papered over the cracks a bit because there is still a lot of work to be done. The Club was in a mess when Sam arrived here so I think at the moment he is sorting that and it is just teething problems. We have got some good games coming up. Arsenal will be tough but then we have Birmingham, Fulham away and Derby at home which are all winnable games and who knows we may even pick something up on Wednesday."
"Mark Viduka came in and in some games he looked very impressive but this isn't always consistent. Alan Smith has worked his socks off and played all over the pitch. He has been in several different positions and he just can't be faulted for his effort. He seems to want to sweat blood for the cause. Cacapa looked very impressive when he came in, but then he picked up an injury and had a bit of nightmare against Portsmouth so hopefully there is more to come from him with all the experience. David Rozenhal also has experience to boot from playing with the Czech Republic. He's been there for much of the season although he did get dropped at one point but he has been impressive. Faye came from Bolton with Sam and he looked good alongside Cacapa. Jose Enrique we are yet to see the best of and then you have Joey Barton. He actually hasn't been on the winning team for us yet. He came back on October 22 and Newcastle have not won since but, taking away the hysteria that comes with him, he is a very talented midfielder and can do well for this club and lift his career again.
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
"Not only the players we have here now but we still have Michel Owen to come back. Players like James Milner here as well, then Shay Given in goal we have got some great players and it is just a case of getting it together. Couple the players with the fact we get 52,000 people turning out every week we are certainly right up there as one of the top five, but we are just not getting the results on the pitch."
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
"We have had a few difficulties with defenders being fit and that will be a problem tomorrow night - they will be short handed. Steven Taylor has been injured, Abdoulaye Faye has been injured and so has the Brazilian Cacapa that came in during the summer. So the defence hasn't had a chance to settle. Plus the players are adapting to new surroundings and tactics at the Club because it wasn't just the Manager, there was a lot of new backroom staff. So it is a case of getting all that gelling together, but that takes time."
"The tactics are only questioned when the team is getting beat. No-one gets on the managers back if their winning, whatever the tactics are. Although it wasn't vintage stuff, he did what he had to do, which was get results from the offset. Entertaining football is certainly part of the criteria here as well but in the long run he wants a successful team and then hopefully the flair can follow. On Wednesday, judging by what went on at Blackburn we gave it much more of a go playing a 4-3-3 system, I think at home he will have to go for the throat. The crowd will be demanding that anyway so I think it will be Newcastle team that give it a real go. It doesn't seem that long ago that we were playing West Ham were we fired in 33 shots at goal, with three of them in the net so if they can produce that again then who knows. Of course it will be tough and we're not kidding ourselves but St James' is one of those places where anything can happen."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"A lot of people even outside of North London, except perhaps Manchester, would like to see Arsenal win the title. The Arsenal people remind me and a lot of other people of Kevin Keegan's Newcastle because they played football the right way with everyone getting involved and goals seem to come from all over the pitch and it is an absolute pleasure to watch. Good luck to them for the rest of the season, but hopefully not Wednesday night."