Newcastle United have been gifted a welcome boost with the return of Allan Saint-Maximin to first-team training, but Steve Bruce is unlikely to feel the benefits for weeks.
According to Chronicle Live, the Toon boss has warned that Saint-Maximin’s recovery will have to be handled carefully after he missed close to seven weeks of action after testing positive for coronavirus amid an outbreak at Darsley Park last month.
The Magpies were forced to shut their training facilities and saw their Premier League trip to Aston Villa postponed after receiving multiple positive tests for both players and club staff, including captain Jamaal Lascelles, Federico Fernandez and Isaac Hayden.
Saint-Maximin last featured for Newcastle in their 2-0 defeat at home to Chelsea prior to the November international break, in what was his ninth outing of the campaign across all competitions.
Bruce recognizably sees Saint-Maximin’s return to training as a positive for United, but seemingly does not expect to be able to call on the 23-year-old for some time yet.
“Allan Saint-Maximin is training today or tomorrow, which is good news. But he’s been out for around seven weeks, so we’ll have to monitor him,” the Toon boss said.
Fernandez may also be unavailable for Newcastle’s trip to Arsenal on Monday night, with Bruce adding concern over the Argentine defender while addressing the state of his squad.
“Jamal Lewis could come back in. Jamaal Lascelles too,” he added. “We’ve got a problem with Federico Fernández.”
Saint-Maximin and Lascelles were confirmed to have been suffering with long-term effects from Covid-19 after testing positive, while Bruce claimed it was “frightening” to see how it ripped through his squad and left Hayden “knocked to hell” and bed-ridden.
Though Hayden was able to return to action much sooner than Saint-Maximin or Lascelles, with the Toon star back on the pitch after just one game.
Lascelles’ situation is much more comparable for Saint-Maximin but offers a dim view on the Frenchman’s imminent return, as Newcastle welcomed their captain back to training on Christmas Eve yet Bruce could not name the 27-year-old in his side until Newcastle’s FA Cup defeat at Arsenal on January 9.
The centre-half was also taken off at the break at the Emirates and later omitted from the matchday squad to face Sheffield United on Tuesday night, suggesting Newcastle fans and Bruce may have to wait a while yet before seeing Saint-Maximin back on the pitch.
United supporters will no doubt be keen to see the £29m-rated maestro back available, as Saint-Maximin is the diamond in the rough at St. James’ Park with the ability to create something from nothing with blistering pace and dazzling footwork.
Even having missed the last few months of action, Saint-Maximin also remains among Newcastle’s most-productive players with the third-most key passes per Premier League game with 0.88 offered, resulting in the joint-most clear cut goalscoring opportunities (0.25) with close to double the amount of Callum Wilson (0.13) who ranks third, per SofaScore.
Only Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Adama Traore has recorded a greater average of successful dribbles (3.65) to the Frenchman (3.63) per game, too, and Saint-Maximin’s driving presence on the flank will be a very welcome addition once he is back to full fitness.