United are yet to secure all three points without the ex-Bournemouth forward leading the line at some stage, with defeats to Chelsea and Manchester United followed by draws with Wolverhampton Wanderers, West Bromwich Albion and Aston Villa.
Newcastle’s form in recent weeks has seen the Tynesiders let slip a nine-point lead over the relegation zone to now sit just two points clear of 18th-placed Fulham but holding two games in hand over the Craven Cottage natives.
Bruce would have hoped to have had Wilson available for Saturday’s trip to 16th-placed Brighton, but while the £20m frontman and Allan Saint-Maximin (groin) will both be absent, Miguel Almiron is in contention for a return from a knee injury.
“They’re both back on the grass. We still think with Callum that the international break is at the right time. He’s well into his rehabilitation, he’s back on the grass,” Bruce said on Friday.
“The same goes for Almiron, who trained for the first time yesterday [Thursday], so we’ll see how he is, but things are obviously improving, given the time.
“The same goes with Saint-Maximin, but we know with Saint-Maximin and Callum, in particular, were nasty muscle injuries, which are obviously going to take time. You have to let nature take its course.
“[Almiron]’s got a chance. We’ll see.”
Bruce being without Wilson at the Amex Stadium on Saturday will see Newcastle face Brighton in a relegation six-pointer without the man responsible for 35% of his team’s 28 goals in the Premier League this season.
Wilson also accounts for 27% of the Toon’s 18 assists, having provided a team-high five in 21 games – only Saint-Maximin (three) has also provided more than two thus far.
Dwight Gayle and Joelinton have each taken on the role of filling in for Wilson since his injury, although neither have found the back of the net in their recent appearances to remain on one goal each in the top flight this term.
Joelinton struck his only effort of the campaign in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in November, some 14 appearances ago, yet impressed Bruce with his overall performance in the right-sided split striker position during last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Aston Villa.
“I thought Joelinton, arguably, had his best game in a Newcastle shirt,” Bruce said, via quotes shared by The Shields Gazette. “I thought he was terrific on the night. But, of course, a striker has to top it off by scoring a goal. He understands that, but his overall performance was very, very good. I thought he led the line very, very well.”
As Joelinton is now expected to once again start in place of Wilson against Brighton, Bruce must see the £40m Brazilian step up and end his long-running dry spell if Newcastle are to seal a crucial win in their fight for Premier League survival.
AND in other news, Newcastle’s hopes of signing a “standout performer” have taken a major blow…