Newcastle boss Alan Pardew is hoping the impending return of some of his injured stars will help ease the pain of a traumatic Christmas.
The 51-year-old has spent the last few weeks trying to piece together a team from the remnants of a squad, the depth of which has been cruelly exposed by an injury and suspension crisis.
But as he prepared for tonight's Premier League clash with Everton in the wake of Saturday's 7-3 drubbing at Arsenal, Pardew was boosted by the return to training of central defender Steven Taylor and key midfielder Yohan Cabaye, and while neither man will be available to him for some time yet, his was not the only spirit to be lifted by their presence.
The manager said: "I was hurt, as you would imagine, after Arsenal. That last 20 minutes really hurt. I am putting on young subs and I question myself whether I should be putting them on.
"But at the end of the day, we really do need our best players back on the pitch and seeing those faces out on the training ground made everyone cheer up a little bit."
The defeat at the Emirates Stadium was all the more dispiriting because it came after the Magpies had three times fought their way back on level terms to enter the final 20 minutes of the game at 3-3.
Having done so just three days after leading three times at Manchester United before losing 4-3, the game proved psychologically, as well as physically, damaging.
Newcastle have now lost eight of their last 10 league games and taken only six points from a possible 30, and that has left them just three points clear of the drop zone.
The task will be no easier this evening with Everton maintaining their challenge for the top four despite Sunday's 2-1 home defeat by Chelsea.
Pardew said: "They had a great 2012 -- I saw a stat the other day where they were the third best team in the Premier League.
"When we played them at the back end of last year when we were on a roll, they beat us, so we know how strong they are, we wouldn't underestimate them in any circumstance."
NEWCASTLE v EVERTON
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