Is transfer activity enough to stop Newcastle fans cancelling season tickets?

Ayoze Perez opens the scoring in a blistering start against West Ham
Ayoze Perez opens the scoring in a blistering start against West Ham

For 45 glorious minutes, it was like the old days.

Remember the days when Newcastle United were capable of rolling teams over at St James’s Park?

New boy Jonjo Shelvey

New boy Jonjo Shelvey

It was another reminder, four days after a comeback against Manchester United, that visits to the stadium can be enjoyable, not something to be endured.

Saturday’s 2-1 win over West Ham United didn’t change much in itself, of course.

Two days later United were back in the Premier League’s relegation zone after Swansea City climbed above them.

So the club, a point adrift of safety with 16 games left to play, remains deep in trouble.

But maybe, just maybe, it has stopped digging.

And if Steve McClaren’s team can replicate that first-half performance on a regular basis, especially at home, then it can slowly start to climb the table.

But was it enough to persuade those thinking of cancelling their season tickets to pause for thought ahead of the impending renewall deadline?

The club, which spent £50million last summer, is looking to address the weaknesses in McClaren’s squad.

But supporters crave genuine ambition, not just a panic-buying spree to stave off the threat of relegation.

Newcastle, however, look to have bought well in Shelvey, signed for £12million last week.

Shelvey – who had a hand in both goals and looked to pass the ball forward at every opportunity – was a player that former manager Alan Pardew was always keen on during his time at St James’s Park, having worked with him earlier in his managerial career at Charlton Athletic.

The midfielder seems to have been around forever, yet he’s only 23. His best years are ahead of him.

One thing United hadn’t done this season until the weekend was dominate a midfield.

And you need ability and aggression to do that.

Within minutes, Shelvey, a player as comfortable winning the ball as passing it, had got a hold of the game.

Twenty four hours before his debut, Shelvey had met journalists along with fellow new signing Henri Saivet in a small room at the club’s Benton training ground.

The England international, quietly spoken and polite, opened up on his departure from Swansea, though his exit hasn’t yet been fully explained.

Shelvey also spoke of what he felt he could bring to the team.

Asked if he’d also bring some bite to the midfield, he said: “If the ball is there to be won then I won’t back out of a challenge, although I won’t go around booting people.

“I will put my foot in and be a leader and get the team going.

“If the fans see that then they’ll get behind us.

“That’s what they’ll get from me.”

That’s what suppporters got against West Ham.

And they did get behind Newcastle.

Also, the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Georginio Wijnaldum in his favoured No 10 role, worked.

Wijnaldum – the club’s leading scorer with nine goals – is wasted in any other position, though McClaren, by necessity, has had to field him elsewhere this season.

Up front, Aleksandar Mitrovic was superb with his back to goal – he held the ball up well and brought others into play – though he had less success facing goal.

If he keeps playing like that, the goals will come for himself – and his team-mates.

At the back, captain Fabricio Coloccini looked more like the commanding figure that led the club back to the Premier League six years ago.

So, the pieces are starting, slowly, to fall into place ahead of Saturday’s game against Watford at Vicarage Road.

It’s no surprise that the club has sold it’s 2,100-seat allocation for the game.

A week and a half ago, almost 3,000 Newcastle fans travelled to the stadium for a third-round FA Cup tie.

It didn’t end well, with a goal from Troy Deeney – who seized on a rare mistake from Wijnaldum – putting the club out of the competition.

That afternoon, the club’s supporters vented their anger at a fourth successive 1-0 defeat, and unsettled Florian Thauvin was singled out by a section of fans.

We haven’t seen Thauvin since then, with the winger – who is understood to be interested in a return to Olympique Marseille just five months after signing fo United in a £12million deal – having picked up an ankle knock at Vicarage Road.

McClaren only needs players fully committed to the cause, and those who played against West Ham ticked that box.

If Thauvin does genuinely want to leave United, then what use will he be in a relegation battle?

The commitment of the club’s supporters to a team which has not won a major trophy since 1969 has never been in question.

But many will take some convincing before they renew for another season, not least as there is a very real danger they could be watching Championship football next term.

Of course, some of the alternatives to going to the game – like shopping and DIY – aren’t that enticing.

And the football played against West Ham was enticing.

Shelvey – who started the move for Wijnaldum’s goal with a superb cross-field pass – won’t play like that every week.

But if Newcastle can match that intensity, and play with the same intelligence, they will pull away from trouble this season.

It won’t happen overnight, but they have set a benchmark.

McClaren has often talked about the “progress” his team has made since his appointment as head coach last summer.

Finally, we saw some evidence of that progress.