Fulham skipper Brede Hangeland is keeping his feet firmly on the ground as he plots a route through the Premier League maze.
The 32-year-old Norwegian left Newcastle on Saturday evening a frustrated man after seeing his side go within four minutes of returning with a point until Hatem Ben Arfa blasted the Magpies to victory.
However, Hangeland is pragmatic enough to know that the first task for Fulham, and indeed many of their Premier League colleagues, is to ensure their continued participation in the top flight.
He said: “I don’t speak in big words. We are very modest and we know how tough this league is, so my aim is to try to get 40 points, and the sooner the better.
“Hopefully we can do that quite early and kick on from there, but I know there are loads of big clubs and they are all spending money – probably more than us, all of them – so we need to keep our feet on the ground.”
Fulham boss Martin Jol has enlisted the services of England striker Darren Bent in a bid to aid that process, and although the 29-year-old had few opportunities to make his mark against the club who had been rivals for his signature, Hangeland is confident he will make a significant difference at Craven Cottage.
He said: “He’s a first-class guy who works really hard and gives us that thing we have lacked, which is a little bit of penetration and runs in behind, so we are delighted to have him with us.”
Hard work was a featured of Fulham’s display at St James’ Park as the soaked up the home side’s pressure comfortably before the break.
Keeper David Stockdale plucked Mathieu Debuchy’s long-range effort out of the air and them blocked Papiss Cisse’s shot from a tight angle with his chest, but was otherwise largely untroubled.
The pressure mounted after the break, particularly after Alan Pardew introduced want-away midfielder Yohan Cabaye and Yoan Gouffran, and later loan signing Loic Remy.
Stockdale had to save twice from Ben Arfa either side of a 78th-minute Cisse header which crashed back off the crossbar, and he was relieved to see Gouffran pass up a glorious opportunity to open the scoring from close range.
Fulham had chances of their own with Newcastle keeper Tim Krul having earlier had to palm away a Bryan Ruiz free-kick, but they could have gone ahead with just five minutes remaining when Fabricio Coloccini’s poor clearance fell to substitute Adel Taarabt, although Krul once again proved equal to the task.
But the decisive moment arrived seconds later when Ben Arfa produced a fine piece of skill to create the bare minimum of space to drill a left foot shot high into the net.
Hangeland said: “It was a great goal, to be fair to him. He has fantastic ability and it was a great finish.
“But that’s what you get in the Premier League. When you look at the team we were playing today, they have quality players everywhere and that’s going to be the case every week, I suppose, so that’s something you get used to.
“We defended fairly well. In the first half, we certainly played better and in the second half, we didn’t keep the ball as well as we would have liked to, but still you are hoping for points when there are no goals five or six minutes before time.”
There was a sense of deja vu for the visitors as they left Tyneside with Cisse having claimed victory in the corresponding fixture last season with an injury-time strike.
Hangeland said: “It’s exactly the same story as last year up here. It’s the worst way to lose.
“When you think you can manage a draw at least and then lose it just before time, it’s hard to take, but that’s football.”