Steve Bruce will surely be vexing the international break after Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough revealed that Newcastle United defender Jamal Lewis is injured.
That’s according to Sky Sports, who quote Baraclough as confirming that he will make a late call on whether or not Lewis will face Italy on Thursday night.
Northern Ireland begin their Group C campaign with a trip to Roberto Mancini’s Gli Azzurri in hopes of securing their first appearance at a World Cup since 1986.
Lewis is one of only three players listed in Baraclough’s squad who is a Premier League regular, making his experience in Italy vitally important.
But Lewis is a major doubt to play in Parma on Thursday night after missing training this week with a groin injury.
“We’ll decide in Italy whether we take the risk with Jamal,” Baraclough said.
“He hasn’t trained, so it’s something he’s had back at his club and we knew that coming into this camp.”
If Lewis had carried the groin problem into the international break, it would help to justify Bruce’s decision to leave the 23-year-old an unused substitute of Newcastle’s last three Premier League games.
But with Lewis now on international duty and a key part of Baraclough’s Northern Ireland squad, it is out of Bruce’s hands how much or how little the full-back plays.
Bruce will surely be vexing the lack of control he has over one of his players, knowing that Lewis featuring against Italy – or next week in a friendly with the United States before a World Cup qualifier with Bulgaria – could see the defender aggravate his issue and face a lengthy spell in the treatment room.
Newcastle have already lost a key part of their side for the remainder of the season in Isaac Hayden, after the midfielder was confirmed to have sustained a serious knee injury during last weekend’s 3-0 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion.
Hayden is not currently thought to require surgery but will play no part in United’s fight for survival, removing the option whom Bruce has relied on more than all bar one of his squad with the 26-year-old featuring for 1,946 of a possible 2,610 minutes in the top-flight this term.
Only goalkeeper Karl Darlow (2,250) has played more minutes in the Premier League this season than Hayden, while Lewis (1,827) registers in third ahead of Callum Wilson (1,816).
Lewis may have been out of favour in recent weeks, potentially due to his groin injury, but being sidelined for a lengthy period will come as a blow for Bruce.
AND in other news, Newcastle have landed a huge boost ahead of facing Tottenham…