Joe Willock – The People’s Champion

 Not only did the loanee score on his Newcastle United debut, but Joe Willock seems to have set his stall out early when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of Magpie’s fans.

The 21-year-old’s earnest post game interview talked about ‘getting the team where it should be’, while his contributions to the club’s social media channels injected the kind of youthful positivity that has been lacking for much of the season.

Willock’s efforts against Southampton have already drawn comparisons to former favourites Kevin Nolan and Georginio Wijnaldum, and while it remains early in his Newcastle career, it’s not hard to see why Steve Bruce targeted the young midfielder during the January transfer window.

According to The Daily Telegraph’s Luke Edwards, who joined Alex and the team on the latest True Faith Podcast, Bruce has been looking to add a central player of this type during each of the past three transfer windows, only to be told the club lacked the finances to make it happen – information which does somewhat reinforce the point that, even under the best of circumstances, Newcastle are always going to be hamstrung by their current ownership situation.

The Hardest Working Physio in the League?

Newcastle’ victory over Southampton came at a cost, with Javier Manquillo, Callum Wilson, and Fabian Schär all forced off due to injury, with the latter suffering a torn knee ligament which will keep him out for several months.

The 29-year-old posted on social media on Sunday afternoon, saying that the injury was “difficult to accept”, but that he hoped to be fit for the European Championships in the summer; though this will do little to ease Newcastle fans concerns about their battered back line.

While Ciaran Clark is due to return for the clash with Chelsea, after missing the Saints game to attend the birth of his child, Newcastle have also been without captain Jamaal Lascelles and Federico Fernandez recently, with Isaac Hayden deputising in central defence on more than one occasion already this season.

It is unclear whether Lascelles or Fernandez will be fit for the game at Stamford Bridge, though Paul Dummett’s notable efforts against Southampton may earn him another opportunity to impress, while Emil Krafth will almost certainly start at right back, after DeAndre Yedlin left to join Galatasaray in January.

A Rallying Cry?

As well as putting in an impressive effort from the bench at the weekend, Dummett also featured in the official matchday programme, with the 29-year-old revealing a behind closed doors meeting led to a sort of survival pact among the squad:

“The lads have spoken about it and said that no matter where your future lies – whether you’re out of contract, whether you’ll be leaving. whether you’ve got three years left on your contract – it doesn’t matter, because if you leave, you don’t want a relegation on your CV.

“With the amount of games we were starting to get beat in, we were getting under more and more pressure every week, and it was important to get that win against Everton.

“The mentality of the team we have, it isn’t a group that will give up.”

Dummett also hinted towards an indifferent attitude towards relegation among some members of the 2015/16 squad:

“I think in previous years, I was a bit younger when we got relegated, I think the mentality with the players we had was a bit like: ‘If we go down we go down – it doesn’t matter because I’ll leave.

“That was the mentality for some of the players.”

Marseille Madness

Quite the week for former Newcastle United attacking midfielder Florian Thauvin, who is now a member of an Olympique Marseille side in turmoil.

Having dropped to 9th in the Ligue 1 table, Marseille fan’s frustration boiled over last weekend – due to a combination of poor form and unhappiness at how the club was being run (sound familiar?) – with a protest spilling over into a small scale invasion of the club’s training ground, resulting in their league game with Rennes being postponed.

Just days later, manager Andre Villas-Boas was out the door, following a disagreement over the loan signing of Olivier Ntcham from Celtic – with the Portugese speaking publicly about his disapproval of the decision to sign Ntcham against his (Boas) wishes.

The former Chelsea and Tottenham manager offered to resign over the incident, though Marseille ultimately opted to sack him.

A difficult week for the South coast side was topped off with a 2-0 home defeat to PSG, leaving them 5-points shy of a UEFA Europa Conference League spot, and a whopping 15-points short of the UEFA Europa League places.

ROB McGREGOR –