Joe Willock has vowed to help restore Newcastle to their rightful place in the Premier League after witnessing the latest episode in the club’s roller-coaster season.
The 21-year-old midfielder, who completed a loan move from Arsenal on deadline day, was in the stands at St James’ Park on Tuesday evening as the Magpies squandered the chance to claim back-to-back victories after surrendering an early lead to lose 2-1 to Crystal Palace.
Willock could get his chance when Southampton, still licking their wounds from a 9-0 trouncing at Manchester United, head for Tyneside on Saturday, and he will have both personal and collective objectives firmly in mind.
He told NUFC TV: “I’ve been blessed to play so many games for such a massive club like Arsenal, but I’m always striving to be better and striving to get to the next level and to do that I need to play a lot more games in the Premier League.
“I was a bit disappointed with how many games I played for Arsenal in the Premier League this season, so I’ve come here to get more game time and improve myself, but help the team as well and put Newcastle where they should be in the table.”
Willock has already played at St James’ having made his league debut for the Gunners in a 2-1 defeat in the north-east in April 2018, although coronavirus protocols mean he will not get to experience the support of a crowd of which he is well aware.
He said: “When I made my debut here, I remember being so scared because of the fans. I remember going back and telling my dad and my mum that the fans felt like they were on top of my head, and I’d never experienced that before.”
As Willock looked on, the Magpies seemed set to build upon their impressive 2-0 weekend win at Everton when Jonjo Shelvey blasted them in front with just 71 seconds on the clock.
However, Palace twice exploited defensive deficiencies inside four first-half minutes for Jairo Riedewald to level with a 25-yard piledriver before defender Gary Cahill won it with a header, his first goal in club football since April 2017.
Riedewald was delighted with the resilience the Eagles showed to fight back and then weather a second-half onslaught.
He told Palace TV: “We were 1-0 behind and had to dig deep, we had to find a way to control the game and score the goal. I did and Cahill scored a good goal after with the set piece as well.
“After, we just had to find our way to play to keep the ball, find free men and overall I think it was a good team performance – we helped each other.”
Riedewald was celebrating again on Wednesday morning when Palace revealed he had signed a contract extension which will keep him at the club until 2024.