Times have been pretty lean for John Carver since he was handed Alan Pardew’s topsy-turvy Newcastle reigns on New Year’s Eve.
A squad that was good enough to string five Premier League wins together across October and November has managed just two under Carver’s stewardship to plunge them deep into the relegation mire.
The interim head coach has taken a few interesting swipes at his own players in a bid to anger them into a performance during their current eight-game skid, but could end up pointing to Papiss Cisse’s return to the team as the season’s turning point.
The Senegalese striker has been the Magpies’ clear star turn this season, scoring 11 goals in just 19 appearances, and will be back in selection contention following a seven-game ban for his part in the spitting incident with Jonny Evans in March.
During his time away from the side, the Geordies have struggled to find the goals that will get them anywhere near winning another game.
They have been kept at bay by the opposition five times during their eight games without a win and will look to Cisse to bulge the net should he return to the starting lineup at home to West Brom next time out.
If he manages to spark Newcastle into life with the first goal of the game, it won’t just be Magpies fans that will be celebrating.
Bwin.com offer the best price on the former Freiburg hotshot setting the scoreboard rolling at St James’ Park, at a hefty price of 6/1.
Only three of Cisse’s 11 league goals have been the first of the game, although there is considerable heart to take from the fact that he has more goals at home than he does on the road.
The bookie cannot pick a winner between the two relegation rivals, with both Newcastle and Tony Pulis’ less-pressured visitors handed an equal 8/5 chance of victory and the draw available at 23/10.