Steve Bruce must unleash Ryan Fraser from the start when Newcastle United visit Leeds on Wednesday night with the winger back ready for action after a hamstring injury.
Bruce is yet to be given the chance to truly rely on Fraser since his arrival at St. James’ Park as a free agent in the summer, having only begun a strict training regime after signing with the Magpies.
Bruce felt Fraser’s Bournemouth exit played a role in his slow start to life on Tyneside, with the 26-year-old’s decision to reject a short-term contract extension to cover the delayed end of the season seeing him last step on the pitch in March.
“Considering he hasn’t played since March, his effort, endeavour and enthusiasm was there for everybody to see,” Bruce said of Fraser, via quotes by the Independent, after the Scotland international scored on his debut against Blackburn Rovers in the Carabao Cup.
“The only bit of quality we showed all night was the goal. It was a great ball, a great run and Ryan stuck it in well.”
Bruce now sees Fraser like a new signing after his rehabilitation was uninterrupted by the closure of Newcastle’s training ground following an outbreak of Covid-19, and has confirmed the £14.4m-rated forward will be in the squad to face Leeds on Wednesday.
“Fraser is OK. It has just been injury and he has trained for the past week and a bit,” Bruce said, via quotes by the Chronicle. “He has been interrupted because of the training ground closure.
“He is fully fit and like a new signing for us.”
But Fraser is only expected to be named among the substitutes at Elland Road, which would be a mistake by Bruce who should be handing the Aberdeen-born maestro only his second Premier League start in black and white.
Bruce lauds Fraser for being a “very, very meticulous” player who was “champing at the bit” to get started for Newcastle, only to see that option taken away through injury. But his desire to get going will simply have grown whilst out for the past month.
In that time, Toon fans have often seen their side struggle for creativity in midfield with Sean Longstaff the only one to provide a key ball in defeat to Southampton, no single player proving multiple key balls against Chelsea, Jonjo Shelvey the sole midfielder to create chances at Crystal Palace while neither Longstaff nor Miguel Almiron provided a key ball in Saturday’s win over West Brom.
Matt Ritchie may have fashioned a joint-game high three key balls against Slaven Bilic’s Baggies, per WhoScored, but also failed to register a single successful dribble while Almiron lost two of his three and accounted for 42% of the Magpies’ total seven shots on target.
Bruce can solve his need for consistent creativity in midfield on both fronts by starting Fraser, not by introducing the £41.8k-p/w attacker from the bench when chances to influence proceedings are far slimmer.