Ciaran Clark believes that Newcastle United’s ‘tough’ pre-season will see them well-equipped for the new Premier League season.
The Magpies kick-off their campaign at home to Tottenham tomorrow (12:30pm kick-off) and Clark believes that a gruelling pre-season will give his side the best chance of kicking-off with three points.
Clark is expected to start against Spurs with fellow defender Florian Lejeune set for a long spell on the sidelines, and the Irishman has taken great confidence from Newcastle’s pre-season campaign - and particularly from the goalless draw with Porto.
The draw at the Estadio do Dragao was arguably the Magpies’ standout pre-season result, with a fine rearguard display resulting in a goalless draw against strong Portuguese opposition.
Rafa Benitez - and the players alike - will have learnt plenty from their overseas outing as they tested themselves against a side which has excelled on both home soil and in the continent in recent years.
These lessons will no doubt prove vital when the new campaign kicks-off tomorrow, and in the longer-term as Newcastle embark on another top flight campaign.
Securing such a positive result is no mean feat, and Clark was keen to take the positives from what was an encouraging display - although he knows there are areas to improve on.
“They were obviously a great side with a good history behind them and some fantastic players,” he said.
“It was a tough game for us as they moved the ball really quickly, but they’re the games we want to be playing in pre-season.
“We want to be playing against tough sides and make sure we’re putting the work in as a team.
“It was a good test for us and we obviously have a lot to improve on, but it’s a game which we wanted to get a decent result in and we did in the end.”
Particularly evident during the Porto draw was Newcastle’s defensive efforts.
As became their hallmark in last season’s battle against the drop, defenders put their bodies on the line as stoppers Martin Dubravka and Karl Darlow pulled off a string of fine saves.
Such commitment to the cause will be required throughout the Premier League season - particularly in Newcastle’s curtain raiser where Spurs will be keen to show off their title credentials.
The ability to remain organised and put bodies behind the ball can’t be understated, and is perhaps the key lesson Clark feels his side should take from the goalless draw.
He said: “There were some great saves from both keepers that played and some great blocks from the lads. It was a real team effort.
“It wasn’t one of those games where we had a lot of time on the ball, and we didn’t manage to get the ball down.
“It was a lot about staying organised, getting behind the ball and making sure we were switched on as a team.
“We’ll need to keep improving on what we did, but it was a good game.”
While the test on the field was one which Newcastle passed with flying colours, they also had to contend with off-field pressures - not least the capacity crowd who created a hostile atmosphere within the Estadio do Dragao.
It was a far cry from your standard pre-season friendly, where a tepid atmosphere can lead to the game being played at a slower place than usual.
Clark now hopes that the cauldron of noise enjoyed in Porto will benefit younger players.
“The atmosphere was brilliant, I was quite surprised by how good it actually was.
“It was great for the lads to play in front of a big crowd like that and, especially for some of the younger lads, it was a good occasion for them.
“The fans that we had too, whether they live out here or travelled over, it was great to see them up in the stands.”
Benitez is expected to hand Clark a start at St James’s Park tomorrow, with new signing Fabian Schar still getting up to speed and Lejeune facing a lenghty spell on the sidelines.
And Clark has wished the French defender well in his comeback from his recent knee surgery.
“Obviously the lads all wish him a speedy recovery. I don’t think anyone could really believe it when it happened, it was just one of those things which came out of the blue. Hopefully he can get himself back to full fitness and it all goes well.”