As the clock ticked down towards the 90th minute the last time Newcastle played in the Barclays Premier League, Andros Townsend picked up the ball and drove towards the Chelsea back four at Stamford Bridge. After a purposeful run he fired a left-footed shot beyond the dive of Thibaut Courtois and into the back of the net. The former Tottenham midfielder turned and trudged back to his own half, shaking his head in dismay as his first Newcastle goal counted for barely a consolation as his side had just conceded five themselves.
Although the goal was not celebrated at all, it gives an indication as to what the England winger can offer his new club. Goals such as this may count for nothing after you’ve just been given a hiding at Chelsea, but repeat the feat against certain other opponents in certain other games and Newcastle could see their alarming slide towards the Championship halted.
Given the proper management and regular game time a player like Townsend could be just the tonic for a club in Newcastle’s position. It is up to Steve McClaren to get the best out of him. The former Middlesbrough and Derby boss has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks as he has failed on several occasions to haul Newcastle out of the bottom three and up the table. Mike Ashley has bucked the trend and backed his manager in two transfer windows, bankrolling an £80m spree on playing staff.
Townsend’s fellow January arrival Jonjo Shelvey has also shown flashes of what he can bring. He put on a midfield masterclass on his debut against West Ham at St. James’ Park, spraying the ball out brilliantly from 40 yards into the on-rushing Daryl Janmaat, who in-turn crossed smartly for Summer arrival Georginio Wijnaldum to finish high into Adrian’s net to give the Magpies a 2-0 lead. While he hasn’t quite reached those heights since, Shelvey is a player in the middle of the park that Newcastle have been crying out for since the departure of Yohan Cabaye to PSG in January 2014.
Henri Saviet has also been added from the French league, a source that Newcastle have repeatedly turned to in recent years with mixed results. Time will tell if Saviet becomes a success at the club or if he’ll be just another foreign import to fall by the wayside with the likes of Remy Cabella and Florian Thauvin.
A glance at Newcastle’s upcoming home fixtures lay claim to the notion that all is not lost. Bournemouth, Sunderland, Swansea and Crystal Palace travel to St. James’ Park throughout March and April. There are also away fixtures starting tonight against Stoke City with games against Aston Villa and Norwich still to come. There are still plenty of points up for grabs.
It is up to McClaren and his expensively assembled squad to take them.