Ben Dawson claimed the impact of Steve Bruce was immediate as Newcastle won their first friendly since appointing their new manager.
Yoshinori Muto scored the only goal as the Magpies beat West Ham 1-0 in the third-place play-off of the Premier League Asia Trophy in Shanghai.
Bruce only linked up with the squad on Thursday but Dawson, who will now revert to his role as academy head after taking temporary charge of first-team matters, claimed there had been a big change.
Dawson said: "I think it was obvious the difference having a manager in place. He's obviously given the players some focus and direction.
"He's been able to express his expectations and the standards he wants out on the pitch to both the staff and the players.
"They've obviously been able to work on that the last couple of days and put in the performance they did tonight."
It has been a troubled summer at St James' Park after the departure of Rafael Benitez as manager, the loss of key players Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon, and with the continuing takeover rumours.
Bruce spoke about the need to sign new players, particularly strikers, when he addressed media on Friday but goalkeeper Martin Dubravka insists the current players also need to step up.
He said: "It has only been three days but he has been trying to describe what is his way, his style of play. Three days is not enough to know each other but we are professionals and we have to take on the responsibilities.
"We have to take risks in games and create chances. We did today. They were very well organised but that was the key."
Japanese forward Muto took his chance to shine as he turned home Jamie Sterry's cross after 34 minutes.
It condemned West Ham to a second defeat of the week after losing 4-1 to Manchester City in Nanjing on Wednesday.
Magpies midfielder Jonjo Shelvey admits he is looking forward to working with Bruce, whose style of coaching suits him more than that of Rafa Benitez.
“I think the change of manager could be a good thing,” he told Sky Sports.
"For me personally, I probably needed that change and trying to get into Steve’s plans.
“I understand the fans are disappointed. We had three great seasons under Rafa but it wasn’t to be and I think we’ve all got to move on. If we put in performances like that, week in and week out in the Premier League they can have no problem with it.
“Steve is a lot different to Rafa. You never knew what Rafa was thinking. His record speaks for itself and he probably didn’t need to talk to you and tell you what he’s thinking but personally as a player I’d rather have someone who talks to you and you know what he’s thinking. That’s not knocking Rafa because he was a terrific, terrific manager but for me personally (it’s better).
“I hope it’s going to a big role for me now. I enjoy playing in that role. I found out yesterday I was playing in that position and it suits me, I can get on the ball a bit more where I’m a bit deeper than the other two midfielders and I can play the passes I like to play.”