BRING ’em on is Mike Williamson’s verdict on Newcastle United’s forthcoming double-header against Liverpool and reigning Premier League champions Manchester United.
Alan Pardew’s side travel to Anfield – never an easy place to go to at the best of times – on Friday to face a Liverpool side who will be determined to get back to winning ways after two poor draws against Wigan and Blackburn.
That will be followed next Wednesday by the Magpies entertaining Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils who, since their shock exit from the Champions League, have bounced back to draw level with rivals City in the title race.
On paper, it would appear Newcastle will have their work cut out – despite finally getting back on the win trail with Monday’s 2-0 win at Bolton – but Williamson does not see it that way.
After all, when growing up, playing against the two most successful clubs in England’s footballing history was the stuff of dreams which are now being fulfilled in the space of a few days.
Defender Williamson cannot wait, saying: “These are the kind of games you always look for in the calendar when the fixtures come out. They are enjoyable experiences.
“As a kid, you watch Match of the Day and these are the kind of games to relish.
“We will take confidence from the Bolton result when we go into those games. There is a lot of confidence here at the moment. From the first game of the season, the lads have kept the same momentum both in games and in training.
“The spirit is high and everyone is positive.
“The media and the fans might have been a bit worried (about the recent winless run prior to Bolton), but the lads know in the changing room they have enough talent and togetherness to grind a result out against any team.
“The results have not gone for us in the last few games, but there is no need to panic.
“Everyone knows we have the quality and we have done a lot of work on the training pitch all season, so it was only going to be a matter of times before things clicked again.”
Of that run prior to bagging their first victory since November 5 at Bolton, Williamson insists the tough mental character needed to overcome such adversity was always there within the dressing room.
He says the players used that old tried and tested theory of hard work to get themselves out of their recent barren spell. He added: “It is a game of football, so you should always be able to slot back into it fine. You can talk about tactics all day, but the players are all very professional and they all know what jobs they have to do.
“They stay together, so it is not too difficult to come into a group with that kind of attitude and the momentum we have. Everyone is going to go through a tough period in the season no matter who you are – Man City, Man United, Chelsea.
“We have done very well this season and the lads have worked to create a solid defensive base.
“That has not changed throughout the season, we just maybe have not had the rub of the green in recent games.
“The lads believe as long as we stay tight and compact, we have enough talent in the group to get a goal from somewhere. That was the case at Bolton.” All eyes at Anfield will be on Hatem Ben Arfa, who staked his claim for a starting spot in style after coming off the bench on Monday to open the scoring with a superbly-taken strike.
Like Williamson, Ben Arfa has had his own injury worries and the centre-back has backed him to kick on for the rest of the season now he is regaining the form which led Pardew’s predecessor Chris Hughton, to sign him in the first place.
He continued: “Hatem has a lot of ability. It has been a frustrating time for him with the injury, but he has worked hard to get back and hopefully it can pay off now. However, you need the whole team to chip in with goals – you cannot just rely on one player.”
United striker Demba Ba was yesterday confirmed in the Senegal squad for next month’s African Nations Cup.