Steve Bruce has already seen enough from “modern-day midfielder” Joe Willock to be confident he will be a success in a Newcastle shirt.
The 21-year-old Arsenal loanee needed just 16 minutes of his debut to score his first goal for the club in last Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Southampton before playing his part in a remarkable rearguard action as the Magpies fought their way to the final whistle with just 10 men.
Willock’s high-energy display added the kind of pace and mobility Bruce’s side had lacked in the middle of the pitch, and the instinct to arrive in the opposition penalty area to get on the end of Allan Saint-Maximin’s pull-back and find the back of the net left the 60-year-old purring.
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Newcastle’s head coach, who takes his team to Chelsea on Monday evening, said: “The one thing you want to do is play well on your debut and arriving in the box like he did…
“It was a great piece of skill from Allan to get to the by-line and pick him out. 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 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.
“I’m delighted because when a new signing walks through the door, we were thinking, ‘Do we just put him on the bench this week?’, and then we thought, ‘We’ve brought him here to play, let the kid go and play’.”
Willock was the Magpies’ only addition during a difficult January transfer window during which finances were understandably tight for most clubs, with the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic biting hard.
It is a situation Bruce, who was allowed to invest heavily in Callum Wilson and Jamal Lewis and also bring in free agents Jeff Hendrick and Ryan Fraser last summer, expects to persist.
He said: “We didn’t see many big transfers [in January] and I can’t see things changing in the summer, so I think it will be the same again, I would have thought.
“There’ll be a privileged few who will have money, but certainly the way it’s looking… I don’t think there are going to be supporters back in the grounds this season, so every club is haemorrhaging money at the moment which was probably earmarked for transfers, so there’ll be more of the same.”