Andy Carroll is confident Newcastle have got what it will take to drag themselves out of a mid-season slump and ease their way back up the Premier League table.
The Magpies slipped to a fourth defeat in six games in all competitions when in-form Leicester left St James’ Park with a 2-1 victory on Sunday, in the process dissipating some of the optimism created by a spirited display in which they had held champions Liverpool to a 0-0 draw four days earlier.
A return of just two points from a possible 15 since the middle of last month either side of a Carabao Cup quarter-final defeat to Championship Brentford has added to the ire of dissenting fans, but Carroll insists the dressing room remains united.
He told NUFC TV: “You saw in the performance against Liverpool especially how we can play when we stick together.
“We defended well, we went forward well and we are a team – and we’re like that every day in training as well.”
Newcastle’s recent slump – they had established themselves comfortably in mid-table with back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and West Brom as November turned to December – is mitigated by the Covid-19 outbreak which is still having a significant impact on Steve Bruce’s squad, and a festive fixture list which pitted them against Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester inside nine days.
Carroll admitted: “It’s not been a nice run, especially when the games are every two, three days. It’s been tough for everyone, rolling out every two or three days.
“But that’s what happens around this time of year and unluckily for us, we got the best teams in the league.”
As valid as those excuses are, the Magpies need to improve significantly if they are not be be dragged into yet another battle for top-flight survival.
They defended well enough against the Foxes until James Maddison rounded off a pacy 55th-minute counter-attack to open the scoring, and were undone once again 18 minutes from time courtesy of Youri Tielemans’ strike following another high-octane attack.
By contrast, Newcastle were ponderous and incoherent going forward, and only really threatened at the death after sending on substitute Carroll and adopting a long-ball approach.
Allan Saint-Maximin’s continued absence as he continues his recovery from coronavirus has highlighted the lack of genuine pace and invention in Bruce’s resources, and the head coach’s efforts to get his team further up the pitch have met with limited success.
Carroll’s 82nd-minute consolation strike was their first goal in 378 minutes of football, a failing upon which they must improve radically if they are to prevent their season from unravelling further.
The striker last scored for his home-town club against Manchester City on Boxing Day in 2010, a little more than a month before his £35million move to Liverpool, and while the goal came as a relief, it counted for little.
Carroll said: “It’s been a long time, but it doesn’t mean anything at the end of the day now, so we’ll just move on to the next.”