Mike Ashley must sanction a summer swoop for Newcastle United to sign Joe Willock after the Arsenal loanee admitted that he is open to a longer stay at St. James’ Park.
In quotes shared by The Shields Gazette, Willock has revealed that he has loved his time with the Magpies so far and would consider staying on Tyneside beyond his initial loan spell.
The Toon paid Arsenal around £1m on Deadline Day of the winter transfer window to hire the 21-year-old for the remainder of the season, after he had struggled for minutes at the Emirates Stadium this term.
Willock started just two of seven Premier League appearances for 234 minutes of top-flight action under Mikel Arteta this season, but has already played 529 minutes under Steve Bruce after opening all six available games in black and white to date.
As well as settling into the team instantly, Willock scored on his Newcastle debut against Southampton and has now shared that he is open to a longer stay at the north east club.
“I love playing for Newcastle,” he said. “When I first came here, I was a bit apprehensive of how I would take to it, because I’d never left Arsenal.
“I’d been at Arsenal since I was four-and-a-half, so coming to a new club, coming up north to Newcastle, was a bit scary. But as I came here and settled in, and saw the love from the fans that I’m receiving, of course, I’d love to continue playing here.”
Any attempt by Newcastle to retain Willock beyond the end of the season is dependent on United’s status as a Premier League side, with the Toon currently just two points clear of the relegation zone albeit with a game in hand over 18th-placed Fulham.
Willock stating that he is open to staying at St. James’ Park beyond his initial loan spell should spark the Newcastle hierarchy to begin sounding out Arsenal’s demands for the £14.5m-rated midfielder who could become United’s next Nolberto Solano.
Arsenal will be expected to position themselves strongly to hold out for a substantial sum for Willock in the summer given his form under Bruce, while the England U21 international will have two years remaining on his current £20,000-per-week contract at the Emirates.
Bruce lauded Willock as a “typical” modern-day midfielder after his goalscoring debut in last month’s 3-2 win over Southampton, but with a hint of the classic as well.
“It was a classic midfield player’s goal from the ability to arrive in the box, and that’s what he’s brought us,” he said, via quotes by Football365. “He can go box-to-box, he’s a terrific athlete, the kid, a typical modern-day midfield player who has the ability to get up and down the pitch quickly and has that added ability to score a goal.”
John Cross, the Chief Football Writer for the Mirror, has previously stated on the Football Writers Podcast that Arsenal would make a “terrible mistake” by selling Willock, too, as the Gunners product “can be a star” as he’s “such an exciting player”.
Ashley sanctioning a deal to retain that talent, when funds are expected to be tight, can see the Newcastle owner land his side’s new Solano, who was loved by United’s supporters for his tireless work-rate, trickery and vision during two spells at St. James’ Park.
Solano’s success on the pitch and love of Newcastle as a club and city made him a cult hero on Tyneside, a path that Willock may now be on following his recent declaration.