NEWCASTLE United defender Mike Williamson has kicked off the countdown to the 146th Tyne-Wear derby by admitting that defeat is unthinkable in a game that has the potential to shape the club’s season.
It has been difficult to decipher too much from United’s start to the season, but Sunday’s disappointing defeat to Manchester United is far from the perfect preparation for a crucial derby date.
The Magpies’ fine midweek victory over Bordeaux seemed to suggest they had found some rhythm, but the weekend loss revealed issues that need to be addressed over the international break.
Williamson has pledged that Newcastle will bounce back strongly against a Sunderland side who are also in mid-table after a mixed start. “We need to move on quickly because the next game has the potential to shape our season – of course it does. It’s been a bit stop-start so far, so this is a massive opportunity for us,” he told The Journal.
“Our target is to go there and get three points and it could well be a springboard for us. We’ve got the players and the squad to go there and win it.
“The next two weeks will all be about that. We’ve got to look forward, physically and mentally, to going there and winning.
“This is a massive game. The build-up starts here – the fans are talking about it, the media are already hyping it up and rightly so, it’s a massive game that means more than three points.
“I think the lads – the majority of us – have played in them and won in them. We know what they’re all about and we’ll be ready.”
Williamson and the rest of the United back four have come under scrutiny following Sunday’s 3-0 reverse, with two goals smuggled from set pieces.
It was the nadir of a disappointing defensive display that did little to enhance the feeling that Newcastle are capable of coping if they lose their two frontline defenders Steven Taylor and Fabricio Coloccini. But Williamson has issued a robust counter-argument to the club’s critics, arguing that United’s defence is doing little different from last season and they just need a bit of luck.
He said: “As a defence we’re working just as hard as we did last season, we’re doing the same things but maybe we’re not getting the rub of the green.
“It’s just the fact that we need to get a bit more consistency. We need to put everything together like we did against Bordeaux on Thursday and cut out the errors that contributed yesterday. I don’t think there’s a big problem there.”
While Williamson is adamant the defence can cope, he admits they let themselves down against Manchester United.
“To lose two goals to set plays is disappointing,” the central defender said.
“When you look at the team sheet and you think of all of the different ways they’ve got of scoring goals and the talent they’ve got in the squad you don’t really think of set plays but that’s what they’ve done today. Myself and the lads are disappointed. It’s not really good enough.”
Both Coloccini – who has been left out of Argentina’s squad on account of his fitness issues – and Taylor look set to return from injuries in time for the Stadium of Light clash in a couple of weeks but there is less certainty about Tim Krul, whose recovery from an elbow problem is proving laborious.
Williamson admits that the lack of consistency in selection is hurting their attempts to build a rapport.
“Stability is the key,” he said. “You want a settled XI and you want a back four that are working together but it’s a squad game and we’ve had lots of games to contend with.
“The players that have come in have done very well and that’s why it was so much more disappointing on Sunday.
“We genuinely believed that we could win the game, we believed that we could keep them out.”