Steve Bruce’s position as Newcastle head coach has been the subject of intense speculation for much of the season, but after a shift in approach could things be about to change for the Magpies and their boss?
Bruce’s side had lost seven of nine Premier League games going into Saturday’s meeting with in-form Everton, with Miguel Almiron’s strike in Tuesday’s defeat by Leeds their first goal in more than five and a half hours of football.
Given their team’s wretched form, Newcastle fans might have been forgiven for dreading the trip to Goodison Park.
However, a switch to a 4-4-2 diamond formation and a more ambitious approach helped secure their first win in 12 games in all competitions, thanks ultimately to Callum Wilson’s well-taken double.
It was a win the visitors thoroughly deserved and reward for a set-up Bruce called “brave”.
Almiron – who has struggled to nail down a regular starting place this season – shone at the tip of the midfield diamond, while Ryan Fraser supplied more crosses (12) than any other player on the pitch.
Wilson, meanwhile, ended a seven-game goal drought by heading in Jonjo Shelvey’s corner – his 50th goal in the Premier League – before finishing off a clinical counter-attack in second-half stoppage time.
“I think Steve knows the fans haven’t been happy with what they’ve been seeing,” former Magpies midfielder Jermaine Jenas told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“They want to be entertained more than anything but if this is anything to go by, Newcastle fans will feel it might be a new dawn.
“There were lots of good things to say about that performance. They pressed higher up the park, they looked strong and compact and counter-attacked with lots of pace. The midfield looked good on the ball.
“Hopefully that can be something they can continue and Newcastle fans can start to get behind their team.”
Bruce admitted his players’ self-belief was “shattered” following the 3-0 defeat at Arsenal earlier this month, but the boyhood Newcastle fan hopes Saturday’s result can provide the boost they so desperately needed.
“I saw signs against Leeds in midweek, but hopefully this will give us a bit of confidence,” said Bruce, who added Bournemouth first-team coach Graeme Jones to his coaching staff earlier this week.
“Over the last few weeks in particular we’ve tried to work on getting after the ball, pressing higher up the pitch and being more forward-thinking. [The players] have bought into it.
“It was a good performance – a good team performance.
“I knew the job was going to be difficult. I walked in with my eyes wide open. I always judge people when you’re up against it. You need to keep your dignity, your belief and see if you can work a bit harder. It’s been tough, but when everyone’s fit and available we’re a decent outfit. When we aren’t, it becomes a bit of a struggle.”
As for Newcastle’s match-winner Wilson, the former Bournemouth striker was delighted to be back among the goals – although he feels he should have ended the game with the match ball.
“I should have had a hat-trick,” he said. “I had one chance in the first half and two others in the second, but it’s about being in the right place to take the chances. They haven’t been coming of late, so it was nice to take them today.”
Saturday’s victory leaves Newcastle eight points clear of the Premier League’s relegation zone, but Wilson says the Magpies will not be lulled into a false sense of security.
“It was important we put a positive performance together,” he said. “We’ve got another big game on Tuesday [at home to Crystal Palace]. The games aren’t getting any easier. We’ll be looking to get another positive result.”