Joe Willock has explained why his debut goal against Southampton on Saturday was no accident, after a conversation with Allan Saint-Maximin.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND: Joe Willock of Newcastle United scores his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Southampton at St. James Park on February 06, 2021. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Newcastle United really had to grind out a win against Southampton on Saturday, finishing the match with nine men after a red card and an injury. Fortunately, they had already built up a lead by that point, thanks in part to Joe Willock’s early goal.

After the match, Willock praised the spirit of the team in the second half, as well as their performance to get in front in the first.

“To be honest, it was a big fight, a big push from the boys,” Willock said. “We went down to nine men and we had to stick with it. I thought the first half was brilliant, and then things like this happen and we have to stick together as a team.

“I’m delighted to be here and I’m happy to get a goal and a win for my debut.”

As for that goal, Willock revealed that it was all part of the plan he formed with Allan Saint-Maximin before the game.

“I told Maxi when he gets past the full-back to cut it back to the edge of the box and I’ll be there,” Willock added. “That’s exactly what he did and I was there to finish it. I’m delighted and I can’t wait to get more.”

At youth level, Willock had a strong reputation for those late runs into the box. In 2018/19, he scored 12 goals in 20 appearances from consistently picking up those positions and finding a finish.

The midfielder has shown shades of that in the first team as well. He scored five senior goals in 2019/20, and another three in the first half of this season before going out on loan. Yet Saturday’s goal was only his second in the Premier League.

Willock has often struggled to break into the league side, and never seems to play his best position when he does. He’s getting that chance at Newcastle, giving him the opportunity to make his case. So far, he’s doing just that.