In our latest instalment of the Flashback series, we take a look back at a certain moment and look at how things might have changed those initial reactions.
The summer of 2016 saw Rafa Benitez look to strengthen his Newcastle United attacking weapons and he brought Matt Ritchie to the North East from south coast side AFC Bournemouth, before following the winger’s capture with a move for Dwight Gayle, who both signed as part of £10m deals (Guardian).
Ritchie has since gone on to be a regular of the Toon first team year in, year out, with his name included in a matchday squad 42 times in the 2016/17 Championship campaign, 35 times in the Premier League during 2017/18 and on 36 occasions last term as he adapted his game to fill a void at left-back (TransferMarkt).
Gayle featured regularly throughout the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons, but just six goals in 35 Premier League games gave Benitez reason to seek a replacement in attack, and landed a temporary swap deal with West Bromwich Albion that saw Salomon Rondon become a Magpie and Gayle join the Baggies.
Life back in the second tier saw Gayle thrive while Rondon did the business at St. James’ Park, with the Venezuelan’s 15 goals across all competitions helping him earn the Toon supporters’ admiration and clinch their Player of the Year award.
Rondon has since gone and in stepped Joelinton wearing the coveted number nine Newcastle jersey, but the Brazilian is struggling, with just one goal to his name so far, and Benitez’s successor Steve Bruce is in an uncomfortable situation inside the bottom three of the Premier League table with an uneasy side at his disposal.
Against Leicester City on Sunday as the Foxes trounced Newcastle 5-0, Joelinton could offer next to nothing as the spearhead of Bruce’s efforts, as the club record £40m (BBC) forward attempted zero shots on Kasper Schmeichel’s net, zero key passes to his teammates, and left the field in the 63rd minute without touching the ball in the home team’s penalty area (WhoScored).
Joelinton’s replacement, the returning Toon hero Andy Carroll making his second appearance back with United, may also have failed to etch a shot as Leicester ran wild, but the 30-year-old did what his younger teammate could not by taking a touch inside the Foxes area as he attempted to control possession in the closing stages (WhoScored).
Gayle already has the backing of his head coach Bruce despite never playing under the 58-year-old, as the Newcastle chief was adamant in the summer that the ex-Crystal Palace striker was going nowhere amid interest from Leeds United and West Brom, who sought a late deal for the attacker (Northern Echo) who scored 24 times for the Baggies (TransferMarkt) while on loan at the Hawthorns.
Bruce is waiting for his first chance to unleash Gayle in the Premier League as the striker nurses his way back to fitness from a calf injury, and could soon have his opportunity with the 28-year-old allegedly close to a return (Football Insider).
The Toon boss will be hoping to see Gayle’s untapped potential as a top flight striker finally break out when he does field the London-born forward, as the Premier League has never been kind to the £20m-rated man (Northern Echo).
Throughout Gayle’s career, he has only ever scored 21 times in the English top-flight, and his best season’s return came at Palace in the 2013/14 campaign when he struck seven – including three goals scored against Liverpool.
At a moment of unease at St. James’ Park, Bruce is in need of a spark to finally see things turn in his favour after victory over Tottenham Hotspur was overshadowed by poor displays at home to Brighton with 28.7% of possession and away to Leicester, where the Magpies enjoyed just 31.1% of the ball.
Newcastle fans, can Gayle be the spark Bruce’s attack needs, or will his untapped potential once again fail to break free? Let us know in the comments below…Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more Newcastle notifications!
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