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Perch and Williamson happy to face the music - unlike NUFC's class of 2009

By Lee Ryder on Nov 28, 12 11:43 AM


When Newcastle United were relegated there were too many players who buried their heads well and truly in the sand.

As it stands (before tonight's game with Stoke), the Magpies are not yet - in my opinion - in a relegation battle.

Of course they soon will be if results continue the way they are, however, the current squad to me give me more encouragement that they can turn things around and claw their way back into the top half of the table.

Newcastle have slumped to three straight defeats.

But rather than shy away from the fact they have been bad they have emerged after games and at least had the courtesy to give some type of explanation to the fans who paid a lot of money to see them.

I know there are certain sections of fans who see footballer's interviews as a bit bland and boring.

Certainly, we've all heard the "We'll keep working hard", or "We'll keep fighting for each other." or "We're right behind the manager." or any other type of talk that used to take place in front of a row of boots in the boot room as opposed to a clutch of sponsors.

But it was during the ill-fated 2008/09 season that I witnessed too many Newcastle United footballers who didn't look like they cared.

Their outlook then appeared to be: "We're too big to go down - and if we do I'll just sign somewhere else in the Premier League."

Well that's exactly what happened that year and it was tough to watch as a Geordie.

Too many times after defeats, three or four years ago, players walked away after defeats with nothing but expressions that suggested they didn't care - or didn't have enough belief that they could prevent relegation.

I'll name names but some fans won't be surprised, Michael Owen, Damien Duff, Obafemi Martins, Geremi and Mark Viduka all didn't look affected by the situation that was causing heartache on the terraces.

After the 5-1 defeat against Liverpool at home, a young Kazenga LuaLua - fresh from the reserve team - was even sent out to face the music!

That was then, this is now.

Since Newcastle lost to Southampton, both Mike Williamson and James Perch have both stood up and been counted in terms of communicating with the fans.

Williamson said that no player is shying away from the challenge of getting back on track and urged the fans to "stick with us" while fit again Perch raised spirits by pointing out Newcastle are in a tighter league this season and still have the Europa League and FA Cup to "fight" for.

Just like the 2008/09 team were entitled to knock back interview requests so were Perch and Williamson.

But they didn't, they faced the music and seemed genuinely passionate about the badge they are playing for.

And I know that hasn't always been the case.

Ultimately when a footballer turns down an interview, they aren't snubbing the journalist, a newspaper or an organisation, they are snubbing the fans and those who pay their wages.

Down the years it is important to the fans for two key members of the squad to participate in interviews, the club captain and whoever is wearing the number 9 shirt at the time.

Alan Shearer in his time at the club managed to both, after defeats he would actively seek the travelling Press pack to make sure they had his views and knew his responsibility.

True, to some supporters their words may be dismissed as excuses and nothing more.

Yet it is important to react in good times and bad.

The words in recent interviews from Perch and Williamson at least resulted in them taking some accountability and a hint of some determination that Newcastle can get out of their slump.

In the Premier League that can be half the battle in my opinion.

Nobody can dress up the last three Premier League defeats as anything but poor.

And it is OK to talk the talk, walking the walk is the most important thing in football.

However, the attitude of the players is everything in this situation and the fact they are prepared to stand up and be counted could be the key to get out of trouble this time around.

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Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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