Fabricio Coloccini has refuted claims he has avoided playing for Newcastle in recent months and says would never desert the club in their hour of need.
Coloccini has endured a difficult season at St James' Park after being named in the PFA team of the year and helping the club to a fifth-place finish in the Premier League last term. Unsettled on Tyneside, he informed the club in January that he wished to return home to Argentina, citing personal reasons. San Lorenzo wanted to take him back to the club he spent a season on loan at in 2000-01 but a deal could not be agreed.
Having also been seen attending a San Lorenzo game during his rehabilitation from a back injury he suffered in February, fans have questioned their captain's commitment to the cause, something he insists was never in doubt.
"I heard people said I wouldn't play because I wanted to leave - that I don't give 100%," Coloccini told the Evening Chronicle. "I don't like to speak to the press too much because I'm like that. But I try to speak on the pitch. I can do those things well, but I always give 100%."
Currently placed just three points above the relegation zone, the club's drastic drop in form in the second half of the season has come as a surprise to many. Reflecting on the situation, Coloccini said he was not surprised by the club's current plight.
"I don't think I am surprised really," he said. "We didn't do things right. And that's why. It's not just one thing, it is a lot of things, a combination of things. That has meant we are fighting against relegation now. It's done now. We are fighting to be a Premier League club. We can only think about that – not the mistakes we did during the year."
Tasked with securing victories against Queens Park Rangers and Arsenal in their final two games to guarantee safety, the Magpies received a significant boost midweek when relegation rivals Wigan lost at home to Swansea 3-2. Having previously seen the Latics celebrate survival, Coloccini was asked if Newcastle would indulge in similar post match celebrations.
"No, no," he replied. "In the last few years they [Wigan] have started badly and finished strongly and won a lot of games at this time. That's why they maybe celebrate like that. Of course we'll be happy if we stay up because we want to stay in the best Premier League. But we'll also look back and know we were thinking of bigger things.
"Of course we won't. At the start of the season we were thinking that maybe we could win one of the cups or the Europa League. Now we are fighting relegation. It's a big difference to what we thought. There's nothing we can do apart from keep our feet on the floor and work hard. If we don't work like a team it will be difficult.
"We have confidence and know that we have to think only of ourselves, not other teams. We are three points above the last [relegation] place. We just have to do our job. Then we think about next season. Newcastle has to be in the Premier League."