Fabricio Coloccini says Newcastle United are running out of time to pull away from relegation trouble.
Steve McClaren’s side are two points adrift of safety.
United ended a miserable year on the pitch with a 1-0 away defeat to West Bromwich Albion on Monday.
The club’s next opponents are Premier League leaders Arsenal, who entertain Newcastle at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Captain Coloccini, in the side which was relegated at Villa Park in 2009, has admitted that United will be in “trouble” – if they are not already – if they don’t quickly start climbing the table.
“It’s very difficult, but we have the strength to go out of the situation,” said the 33-year-old.
“We need to improve things, and quickly, because if we don’t then we’re going to be in trouble.”
Coloccini does not think that there are parallels between the club’s predicament this season and what happened in the troubled 2008-09 campaign, which ended in a last-day relegation to the Championship.
“It’s different,” he said. “In that moment, we had a bigger squad and most of them were big players.
“Now it’s different, we have a lot of young players who want to improve and be top players.
“That’s the difference now. The players are hungry.”
Coloccini and his team-mates were booed after Monday’s 1-0 defeat at The Hawthorns.
The result, which followed a last-minute home loss to Everton on Boxing Day, left Steve McClaren’s side two points adrift of Premier League safety ahead of Saturday’s game against Arsenal.
Substitute Florian Thauvin was given a frosty reception when he turned to acknowledge the support they had got from the club’s 2,700-strong travelling support.
But Coloccini insisted on leading the rest of his team-mates towards the away end at the final whistle, which greeted the final whistle with pockets of boos.
The 33-year-old – who experienced the pain of relegation at Villa Park in 2009 – says he can’t fault the backing United get up and down the country.
As such, Coloccini believes the club’s long-suffering supporters are fully entitled to make their feelings known, though he insists the players are “giving everything” on the pitch.
“They travel everywhere and they are always behind us,” said Coloccini.
“They are allowed to say anything they want. They know the players who go on the pitch give everything and everyone wants to do the best for the team. We always try.”
Coloccini, United’s most experienced player, feels the younger members of the club’s squad, and those who arrived in the summer without any experience of the English top flight, are on steep learning curve.
Asked if the club’s players had the experience needed, Coloccini added: “I think some of them start to learning now, they have not been in this situation.
“They played for top teams in other leagues. It’s a different experience for them but they have to know this is very difficult.
“It’s a tough Premier League season, and it’s going to be tougher if we don’t do the right things.
“We don’t have time. Now, we have to improve as quickly as possible, because we are in the middle of the season and we need points.”