Steve Bruce has been left facing a huge conundrum against Tottenham Hotspur this Sunday with a return for Newcastle United striker Callum Wilson considered unlikely.
The Toon boss confirmed that Wilson remains a doubt for this weekend’s Premier League affair at St James’ Park when speaking to the media on Friday, although he voiced hope in having Allan Saint-Maximin back.
Wilson has missed Newcastle’s last six fixtures after sustaining a deep hamstring tear during February’s 3-2 win over Southampton, which forced the £20m summer signing from Bournemouth out of the game late in the first half.
Newcastle are yet to win a top-flight fixture without Wilson since his arrival on Tyneside in September, with Bruce’s men succumbing to five defeats and three draws.
The Toon had landed a potential boost over the international break when Wilson hinted at a return on social media, after Bruce alluded to having the 10-goal centre-forward back available to face Tottenham. Those hopes have now been dashed, and Newcastle will likely host Spurs on Sunday without their top scorer to call on once again.
“I wouldn’t have thought so, no,” Bruce said in relation to Wilson returning to selection at home to Jose Mourinho’s north Londoners.
“He [Saint-Maximin] could be, yeah. We’ve still got two days to train, today and tomorrow, but he came through a big training session 48 hours ago, so we hope he’s a bit more advanced than Callum is. We hope he can play some part.”
Despite missing Newcastle’s last six Premier League fixtures and two earlier in the campaign, Wilson remains atop the scoring charts at St James’ Park with more than double the tally of second-ranked Miguel Almiron (4) and with nine goals more than any other striker.
Being without Wilson on Sunday will leave Bruce facing a huge conundrum over his attacking options, with ex-Magpies midfielder Rob Lee fearful of the consequences.
“If you haven’t got someone who’s a natural goalscorer scoring goals, you’re in trouble, you’re in trouble,” Lee exclusively told Football FanCast. “You look at all the teams down there and none of them have a natural goalscorer, none of them.
“They [the teams that are relegated] never do. Throughout the years, they never have a natural goalscorer. We actually have one, but he’s injured and it seems the whole of our team is based around him and how he plays. And we haven’t got a replacement and then we don’t have any players from midfield [who can score].”
Joelinton, Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle have each scored one goal in the Premier League this term, but neither have found the back of the net since Wilson’s injury.
Bruce will be well aware that Newcastle cannot afford to drop many more points with the northeast outfit only two points clear of the relegation zone, but they will likely struggle to steer the ship away from trouble while Wilson remains sidelined.
Gabby Agbonlahor slammed Joelinton following the Toon’s dismal 3-0 defeat to relegation rivals Brighton & Hove Albion prior to the international break, claiming that the Brazilian “hasn’t turned up all season” and is still not delivering in the black and white stripes.
However, Bruce has been pleased with Joelinton’s recent efforts, saying that the 24-year-old had his best game for the club against Aston Villa last month, having turned in a “terrific” performance.
Alas, no goals in 14 Premier League games raises question marks over Joelinton’s ability to lead the line against Tottenham, when Newcastle will likely be in trouble again unless they can find someone to fill Wilson’s goalscoring void.