Fabricio Coloccini has hit back at suggestions Newcastle United's players lack commitment or motivation as he looks to draw a line under a troubled period.
United’s injury-time winner in Sunday’s defeat of Aston Villa gave the club a much-needed lift after a cloud of negativity had engulfed St James’ Park since the departure of Yohan Cabaye, and, a goalless and winless run that stretched back to the trip to West Ham in January.
That period led to a string of pressing questions about the club’s direction, boss Alan Pardew’s future and whether the players possess the necessary fight or desire to keep battling in a season where Newcastle are nestled between danger and a realistic shot at the Champions League qualification.
Thanks to the misadventures of Manchester United and Tottenham, who were beaten at Norwich on Saturday, the route to sixth place is still open and if results in the Capital One Cup and FA Cup go the club’s way it could even open up seventh as a viable route into Europe.
Quite whether the club want to embrace the Europa League given the very voluble complaints Pardew has made about the competition is another matter. But Coloccini says that even without the carrot of Europe, there remains a lot to play for the Magpies as they head down the home straight.
“People might say there is not a lot to play for in the rest of the season, but that is not correct,” he said.
“It is never a problem to get motivated when you are playing for a club like this. All of us in the dressing room know about Newcastle’shistory, and we know we are playing for one of the biggest clubs in the country.
“That is what we are fighting for when we go on the pitch. The biggest motivation is knowing that you are representing Newcastle and the Newcastle fans. When you think about the 52,000 fans who come here to support us, you know you have to go out and give your all.
“We know we have been in some bad times. It has not been easy for the fans or the whole of the city. The mood has been a little bit sad because of some bad results. We knew this was going to be a massive game, and the three points are very important for us. It will give us a lot more confidence and improve everyone’s mood. It should prove to the fans that we will always give our best. Whenever we are on the pitch, we fight as hard as we can to get the three points.
“Sometimes it is not always possible, but it is never for a lack of trying. We always try and that is one of the key messages that came out of the Aston Villa game.”
Coloccini did not want to be drawn on the club’s hopes of European competition but did say that they have their sights set upwards.
He said: “It is hard to talk about ambitions too much because you don’t want to say things and have them taken the wrong way. We just think about the next game and taking points there.
“We want to win as many points as possible, and then three or four games before the end of the season, we can see where we are.
“The manager wasn’t happy with some of the recent performances, so it was important that we all responded in the right way.
“There had been a few games where we hadn’t been able to get the three points, so it was important to stop that run. Now, we have to start looking forward. There are still plenty of games to play, and as long as we show the same fighting spirit that we did against Villa, we should do well in them.
“We want to finish in the best position possible in the league.”
Coloccini admitted he is not yet 100 per cent but feels he is ready to make an impact for United.
He said: “It has been a tough few weeks. It is very hard to watch from outside the pitch and see that the team is not having the best of times, but then not be able to do anything about it yourself. That is the worst thing for a footballer – not being able to get out there and make a difference.
“Now, I am better and getting fit. I can help now, and that is what I am determined to do. I am happy now because I feel like I can make a difference.”