Steve Bruce said that Newcastle “would love to keep” Joe Willock after the Arsenal loanee scored a late winner in a dramatic clash with West Ham.
Newcastle eased their relegation fears with a 3-2 triumph over Champions League hopefuls West Ham. Willock scored the winner in the 82nd minute, barely two minutes after Newcastle had conceded an equaliser. They immediately bounced back to move nine points clear of the bottom three.
They had Willock to thank for the winner, which was the 21-year-old’s third goal since joining on loan from Arsenal in February.
He may have played a big part in keeping them away from the drop zone, but Bruce is unsure if Willock can stay next season.
“We would love to keep him here,” he told Sky Sports. “He is the type of player you’d love to build your club around.
“Whether we can or not I’m not quite sure.”
In the here and now, Bruce was simply grateful for the impact his substitute made.
“I think I’ve always said that this job comes with a health warning!” he said. “I couldn’t have been more pleased at half-time with the way we played in the first half.
“We were arguably better against 11 than against 10. How often do you see it? The situation – human nature is to defend what you’ve got and go deep.
“We were wasteful and that gave West Ham the opportunity and to be fair to them they got themselves back in the game and made it one of those awful afternoons. To be fair we redeemed ourselves. Relieved.
“One of the things we talked about at half-time was: ‘Let’s not go deep, let’s get after them’.
Steve Bruce: Newcastle have had a tough season
Steve Bruce says the 2020/21 campaign has been the toughest of his managerial career and believes the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have had a profound impact on Newcastle United this season.
“We were brilliant in the counter attack in the first half and we thought that would materialise more in the second half. But the position we’re in, we go deep in the second half and let West Ham dictate too much.
“After we adapted to them scoring, we changed it and were much better.
“I’ve never known eight minutes in the Premier League. Three or four minutes was the penalty and Jesse [Lingard]. It wasn’t us.”
Bruce has big players back
Part of the reason Newcastle have been looking over their shoulders for so long is because of some injuries to key players.
Bruce insists that has had an impact on their fortunes and is glad it is now changing.
“Most teams can change formations or systems. It is (having) our big players back,” he said. “If you take your big players out it becomes a struggle.
“I think that’s [Allan] Saint-Maximin’s 12th start of the season and the injuries we’ve picked up to our defenders, we’ve been too long without our big players.
“But I always said with our big players, we’d be OK and hopefully that’s what it is.”