Pre-season matches at best give only a glimpse of what lies ahead for when the serious stuff begins.
However, what can be taken from this match against Motherwell last night, Newcastle United’s first of the summer, is that Moussa Sissoko appears to be in fine fettle.
The coaching staff at St James’ Park believe Sissoko is going to be the team’s key player this season.
And, sure, while this was only a warm-up game and as such you should never read too much, good or bad, from the proceedings, the big Frenchman seriously impressed.
He started in central midfield, which is where everyone wants to see him play, and was utterly dominant in a display that you couldn’t ignore for the 65 minutes he was on the park.
Sissoko set up a goal, scored one himself, made several good runs from midfield and generally ran the game. He looked fit, full of energy and utterly sure of himself. That’s not a bad combination.
And he wasn’t the only one who had a good evening in Scotland against a Motherwell side that, it is important to note, are almost two weeks ahead of Newcastle in terms of preparation.
Haris Vuckic has suffered some dreadful injuries, the last one being a cruciate ligament snap he suffered back in October.
And yet last night at Fir Park, the 20-year-old Slovenian looked fitter and sharper than he has ever been.
He scored the opener and could have got some more if some rustiness hadn’t still existed.
Sammy Ameobi did some nice things on the left wing, Vurnon Anita was neat and tidy, while Yoan Gouffran picked up where he left off last season.
Alan Pardew could not have asked much more from the performance before he takes the players to Portugal today.
To the game itself, and Motherwell should have been ahead after 90 seconds.
From a Newcastle corner that Motherwell cleared, James Tavernier committed the crime of allowing a high ball to bounce over his head, his rushed clearance hitting the stomach of Henri Anier, whose shot on the rise was a tad too high.
Newcastle took the lead on eight minutes after a strong, intelligent burst from Sissoko in midfield.
He stole the ball near the centre circle and slipped a superb pass to Gouffran, who opened his body to angle his shot, which was saved by Motherwell keeper Lee Hollis and Vuckic rolled the rebound into the empty net.
The SPL men came close to an immediate equaliser when, from a corner, Adam Cummins got his header on target at the back post, only to be denied by a really good Rob Elliot save.
On quarter of an hour, Newcastle made it 2-0.
It was all quite simple. Vuckic ran at the Motherwell back four, delayed his pass to Gouffran on the edge of the box, before playing a perfect ball which his team-mate directed past Hollis and into the net.
Newcastle were terrific in attack. A cross from Gouffran to Vuckic at the back post almost made it 3-0; on this occasion the youngster’s volley flashed wide.
And on 21 minutes, Ameobi hit the post with low curling shot.
It wasn’t one-way traffic. Elliot made a second smart save, this time from Anier and the hosts played some decent stuff at times.
Motherwell did get one back on 27 minutes and it was a terrific goal. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa’s headed clearance fell to Iain Vigurs, who in turn smacked the ball from 25 yards into the top corner.
The goals continued to fly in.
It was Sissoko’s turn on 40 minutes when his shot somehow squeezed under the body of an embarrassed Hollis.
The second half was littered with substitutions, but the flow of the game continued at a decent pace.
As pre-season matches goes, this was something of a classic, given how awful they normally are.
Goal number five came for Motherwell seven minutes after the break when Sissoko was adjudged to have tripped Stuart Carswell in the box. It was soft.
James McFadden, who has just re-signed for his first club, cheekily chipped the penalty over Elliot.
Paul Dummett was another of Newcastle’s kids who did themselves no harm.
The left-back burst forward in the 64th minute, looked up to spot Sylvain Marveaux at the back post and picked him out with a smashing low ball across the six-yard box.
Marveaux couldn’t miss, and didn’t.
Both sides deserved credit for continuing to attack, rather than see out the game.
Ameobi forced Motherwell substitute keeper Gunnar Nielsen into a save with a long-range shot, and the same player was an inch at most away from connecting with the ball in front of goal after yet another fine Dummett cross.
Remie Street made his Newcastle debut late on as everyone got the opportunity to stretch their legs.
Elliot had time for one final good save in the dying minutes when he got down low to keep out a header from Simon Ramsden.
The 1,012 Newcastle fans would have left the ground gladdened by how well so many of their players looked so soon into pre-season.
They still could do with seeing some signings made, right enough.
MOTHERWELL: Hollis, Hammell, Ramsden, Hutchinson, Lawson, Vigurs, Lasley, Cummins, McHugh, Carswell, Trialist. Subs: Nielsen, McFadden, Francis-Angol, Erwin, Kerr, Moore, Murray
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Elliot, Tavernier, Williamson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Dummett; Anita, Sissoko; Obertan, Vuckic, Sammy Ameobi; Gouffran. Subs: Alnwick, Streete, Ferguson, Taylor, Abeid, Richardson. Amalfitano, Marveaux, Cambell
Referee: Willie Collum Att: 4,475