De Jong: We have to turn it around
Siem de Jong has challenged Newcastle to turn their faltering season around by ending Leicester's remarkable surge towards the Barclays Premier League finishing line.
The 26-year-old Holland international scored within 14 minutes of coming off the bench after almost eight months on the sidelines, but could not prevent the Magpies from slipping to a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Swansea on Saturday.
It was their seventh successive reverse, an unwanted club record in the Premier League era and something they had not suffered since 1977, when they went on to lose 10 on the trot in the old first division.
But perhaps more significantly, it left John Carver's side just five points clear of the relegation zone with just four games remaining, the next one at Leicester, who climbed out of the drop zone with a fourth win on the bounce on the same afternoon.
De Jong told nufcTV: "It's a really important one. We just need the points and it doesn't matter against who, but if you lose against Leicester, of course the teams below you come closer.
"We know how important it is and hopefully we can turn it around next week."
De Jong was introduced as a 74th-minute replacement for Remy Cabella, his first senior appearance since August following his recovery from a thigh injury and surgery to repair a collapsed lung, and gave the home side hope of salvation when he fired home from Jack Colback's pass two minutes from time.
However, on what proved to be another stormy afternoon at St James' Park, it proved too little, too late after the Magpies squandered an early lead given to them by Ayoze Perez's sixth goal of the campaign, but his first since the turn of the year.
Nelson Oliveira levelled in first-half injury-time when he made the most of the Magpies' frailty at set-pieces to head Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner past Tim Krul, and the Iceland international put the visitors in front five minutes after the restart before Jack Cork's third 19 minutes from time meant De Jong's effort counted for little.
The Dutchman said: "The most important thing today was to get points and we didn't, so I feel sad about that, but a little bit happy about being back on the pitch and being back in the first team.
"One goal wasn't enough, but like I said, it's not about me at this point, it's more about the team."
A crowd of just 46,884 watched the game at St James' with the majority of the locals joining in a 34th-minute protest against owner Mike Ashley, a reference to the £34million the club banked in addition to a recorded profit of £18.7million during the last financial year.
There was anger directed too at Carver, and social media platforms were buzzing on Saturday night amid claims he engaged in a four-letter exchange with fans who confronted him and invited one to see him after the game.
A Newcastle spokesman later insisted that Carver categorically denied using foul or abusive language, but did offer a supporter the opportunity to hear him explain what he was doing with the team following the final whistle.
The emotions on the away bench were markedly different as opposite number Garry Monk left Tyneside with the three points for the third season in a row to take his side's tally to 50, the best they have managed in the Premier League.
Monk said: "We have been fantastic. We have won in many ways this season - there are a lot of different sides to us, but ultimately we have played some excellent football. I thought you saw that today, especially in the second half, so I'm just extremely proud of everyone.
"Newcastle started the game very well in the first five or 10 minutes, as we expected, but after that point we really came into the game and we were disappointed, really, with the goal against.
"But I knew if we stepped up second half and upped it, upped the tempo and upped our passing, we could create goals and that proved to be the case in the second half."