Andros Townsend has revealed the secret behind his stunning free-kick – his first-team exile at Tottenham Hotspur, writes Miles Starforth.
Townsend’s superb set-piece against Crystal Palace lifted Newcastle United out of the Premier League’s relegation places.
The strike gave Rafa Benitez’s side a 1-0 win at St James’s Park – and a one-point cushion above the drop zone.
It was the first time Townsend, signed for £12million in January, had ever scored with a free-kick.
The 24-year-old practised them after being banished to Tottenham’s Under-21 side earlier this season by Mauricio Pochettino following a row with a fitness coach.
“When I was thrown into the Under-21s by Spurs, I used to stay, me and one other player,” said the England international.
“We used to stay for hours just practising free-kicks – left foot and right – until the fitness coaches came out and told us to save our legs.
“All that stuff pays off when you score in front of 52,000 people to help your team get three points.”
He added: “I think that’s the first free-kick I’ve scored.”
Townsend – who netted what was his fourth goal for the club in the 59th minute – had been frustrated with his own performance at the break.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” he said.
“At half time I was beating myself up a bit – I missed a few chances and was a bit wasteful on the ball.
“I took one too many touches. I knew I just needed that one more chance to make everyone forget about the rest. I’m delighted that I managed to pull it off.”
Townsend, brought down by Scott Dann, managed to bend his free-kick around the Palace wall and beyond goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.
“I was alays going to take it,” he said. “I was weighing up which side of the wall to go.
“I normally go the other side, but the wall was so tall, so I decided to have a pop at the keeper’s side, try and wrong foot him, and it worked out perfectly.
“I’m delighted for the players, the staff, the fans, the city.”
Sunderland, in 18th place, have a game in hand over Newcastle, who must now attempt to win their final two games against Aston Villa on Saturday and Tottenham on May 15 and hope their rivals drop points.
Townsend said: “Two more games now – two more massive cup finals – and hopefully we can get six points and stay up.
“We can only do our job. If we win the next two games, and it’s not enough, what can we do?
“We have just got to do our business and hope the other teams around us drop enough points for us to stay up.
“That’s all we can do. We are just focused on our own games.”