Newcastle's Mike Williamson plays percentage game against Arsenal

• 'There's no reason why we should fear league leaders'
• Centre-half subject of Twitter campaign for England recognition

The days when Mike Williamson could walk the streets of Tyneside in relative anonymity are over. The years of accepting his status as Newcastle United's third or fourth choice centre-half have also passed now France's Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Steven Taylor are kicking their heels on the sidelines.

It is no coincidence that Newcastle's rise to Champions League contention has coincided with Williamson's return alongside Fabricio Coloccini. After all Alan Pardew's team have won 64% of the games the one-time Torquay and Wycombe defender has started this season; without "Iron Mike" in the first XI that ratio falls to 33%.

As Arsène Wenger plots a way to get behind Williamson when Arsenal visit St James' Park on Sunday, the 30-year-old is enjoying being the subject of a Twitter campaign urging Roy Hodgson to include him in England's World Cup squad.

While @getmike2brazil is rapidly building followers, Newcastle fans have taken to serenading their new, thoroughly unlikely, hero "Mike Brazilliamson" with a special song. "Here's to you, Mike Williamson, Geordies love you more than you will know," they sing to the tune of "Mrs Robinson".

"I've seen the campaign on Twitter," said Williamson, who reveals his wife "laughs" at the "Iron Mike" label. "I got a lot of text messages from my friends over Christmas, and they were nearly all talking about the song. It's fantastic. The supporters here are so passionate. I relish playing in front of them and it's great that they've taken me to their heart. Hopefully they'll continue to sing it for the rest of the season because that'll mean I'm in the side playing well."

After seven wins and one draw in their past nine Premier League games, Pardew's side are, as Williamson puts it, "on a real roll at the moment". Arsenal's visit should serve as a litmus test of their potential."We couldn't be in any better shape to face Arsenal," says a centre-half with few inhibitions about directing the ball into Row Z when required. "The confidence is really flowing through the squad. We know we'll be going out there with a team full of fantastic ability. We can think about beating Arsenal, and that's a great position to be in. It'll be two offensive teams looking to get the ball down, and it'll be great."

Williamson feels Pardew's players are in a position to make Mesut Özil and co slightly nervous. "We've beaten Chelsea and Manchester United so there's no reason why we should fear Arsenal," he said. "We've proved we can mix it with the best in the Premier League. It's a big ask to beat Arsenal, but if we work hard and make sure we're spot on, we can take the points."

Wenger is certainly unlikely to underestimate the ability of a Newcastle dressing room filled with gifted France internationals including Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa, Loïc Rémy and Moussa Sissoko.

Now sixth in the table, Pardew's side – embroiled in a struggle against relegation as recently as last spring – have 33 points from 18 games, their highest total at the equivalent stage of the season since the 2001-02 season when they finished fourth.

"People have been speaking about the strength of Arsenal's attack and midfield, but we look at what's in our dressing room and we're every bit as happy," Williamson said. "The manager has complete faith in the squad. It's definitely a squad effort; we have fantastic talent all over the pitch.

"It's nice to watch us at the moment. As a defender, I was a spectator for most of the second half against Stoke [who Newcastle beat 5-1 at home on Boxing Day] and was able to watch our attacking players tear them to shreds. It's a great place to be at the moment and it's difficult for the manager to pick his starting XI. We have some fantastic players and everything seems to be falling into place.

"It's hard to talk about targets at the moment. The main thing is to keep our momentum going and get as many points as we can. The lads are confident; we're happy for the games to be coming thick and fast."

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