Newcastle has been a dealt a crushing blow in their bid to avoid Premier League relegation this season after star striker Callum Wilson was ruled out with a hamstring injury.
The 28-year-old was forced off in the 36th minute during Saturday’s 3-2 win over Southampton, and while fans would have been hoping it was just a minor setback, the true extent of the injury has now been revealed.
Wilson will now spend up to eight weeks on the sidelines, leaving Newcastle and Steve Bruce without their primary goalscoring asset for the most crucial part of their season.
The England international has been the Magpies’ most potent threat in the final third in 2020/21, providing ten goals and five assists from 21 league appearances. The remainder of Newcastle’s squad have managed just 15 goals between them.
The problem for Bruce is not a lack of options. He has Joelinton, Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle still to call upon. However, none have proven as prolific in front of goal as his summer signing.
His burden may be eased somewhat by the return to fitness of explosive winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who missed nine games with a calf injury. He has since made five appearances, but only once has he featured for more than 30 minutes – against Southampton where he bagged two assists.
Alongside Miguel Almiron and Ryan Fraser, the service to Newcastle’s forwards will be there, they just need a reliable central figure to finish it off.
Joelinton, who joined the club for £40 million in July 2019, has found the back of the net just seven times in 66 appearances in all competitions.
Carroll, meanwhile, has scored only once since returning for a second spell at St. James’ Park in 2019.
As for Gayle, the 31-year-old has barely featured this term and has one goal.
Despite the win over Southampton, Newcastle remain just 10 points clear of the bottom three, and Wilson’s setback will no doubt threaten to overturn their precious momentum against a relegation scrap.
Bruce’s team have been a much better side with his top players fit and available, and it remains to be seen whether his side can stomach the fight in their absence.
Defensive duo Fabian Schar and Javi Manquillo were also casualties during the Southampton match, and both are set to miss a similar eight week window.
A fall back down to the Championship might still be a stretch for the current campaign, but Newcastle’s hopes of pushing for a top-half finish may be all but over.
Newcastle have three more league games to play this month and it makes grim reading. First up is a trip to Chelsea on Monday, followed by a trip to title challengers Manchester United.
February then closes out with a visit from Wolves, who despite their inconsistencies of late, have the potential to do damage against a depleted Newcastle side.
Though March may well be the most crucial month of Bruce’s season, with games against West Brom, Aston Villa and Brighton, of whom two will be considered relegation rivals.
Can Bruce and Newcastle muster the confidence and quality to press on despite the loss of their star striker? It is imperative that they do.
If you want to check out the rest of Matt’s Sports Articles click here.