Andros Townsend has described scoring the free-kick which dragged Newcastle United out of the Premier League relegation zone as a moment “you live for”.
Just a few months ago, the 24-year-old England international was out of favour at White Hart Lane and training with the second team, although all the while, he was awaiting his next chance.
That came when the Magpies invested £12million in his services in January, and his most telling contribution yet came on Saturday when he smashed a 58th-minute free-kick past Crystal Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey to clinch three priceless points.
Townsend said: “At the back end of last year, I used to stay out for hours practising free-kicks, left foot then right foot.
“It was frustrating, but all that hard work on the training field eventually pays off. It paid off in dividends against Palace – in front of 52,000 fans.”
It was Townsend’s fourth goal in 11 appearances in a black and white shirt and his third in the last five, but it was by some distance the most important yet.
He said: “I have scored goals when we were 5-0 down and 3-0 down, then a third goal in a 3-0 win against Swansea. But this is what you live for, moments like this when your team really needs it.
“I’m glad to repay the faith and hopefully in the last two games, I can contribute with more goals and assists.”
Townsend and his team-mates have two games left in which to secure what just a few weeks ago looked like an unlikely escape, and they know they may have to win both – away to relegated Aston Villa and at home to high-flying Tottenham – if they are to survive.
However, with relegation rivals Sunderland and Norwich both having a game in hand, even that may not prove enough during what is sure to be a dramatic conclusion to the campaign.