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Opinion: How Newcastle’s mercurial finisher came back from the brink

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Often Dwight Gayle is pigeon-holed as a striker who is ‘too good’ for the Championship, yet he doesn’t cut the mustard at Premier League level. It is hard to argue with the numbers, as the 29-year-old has an outstanding 0.59 conversion rate in the second tier, which drops off significantly in the Premier League to 0.19.

His time spent with Newcastle United has been a microcosm for Gayle’s perception, as the dramatic decline in his output has seen the striker score eight times across two top-flight seasons, having bagged 23 goals to get the Magpies promoted. His incredible performances, finding the net on 24 occasions, while on-loan with West Bromwich Albion last season only act as further evidence for the theory.

With the arrival of Joelinton and Andy Carroll, Steve Bruce scarcely chose Gayle for the bench in the first half of the campaign, making his first Premier League start on Boxing Day. The situation was so bleak that in January the club was reportedly ready to consider £15m offers for the 29-year-old, with a host of second-tier suitors linked.

However, six months on, Gayle’s standing in the northeast is arguably as strong as it has ever been in since Newcastle achieved promotion, featuring in five of the Magpies’ six matches since the restart. The Englishman has grabbed the opportunity Bruce has offered him with both hands, scoring twice and assisting once to draw level with Joelinton on goals for the season, having played 2,041 fewer minutes than the Brazilian.

Drawing level with Newcastle’s misfiring record signing is no sensational achievement, but given Andy Carroll is yet to find the back of the net since returning, Gayle’s importance to the Magpies has increased dramatically. Newcastle’s backline has also weighed in with such a telling goal contribution this term, only Jonjo Shelvey, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin have had a hand in more goals than the 29-year-old’s four.

As his career reaches the wrong side of its apex, Gayle will not get many more opportunities with Premier League clubs. The striker appears to have come to that realisation and has begun to rediscover his goalscoring form. His strike against Aston Villa was his first in over a year; he followed it up with another against Bournemouth to score in consecutive matches.

Bruce has a dilemma to contend with this summer. Newcastle are desperately short of a reliable goalscorer, and with Joelinton, Carroll, Gayle and Yoshinori Muto at centre forward at least one may have to make way for any incoming signings this summer. If Gayle can continue his scoring run during the sprint finish to the end of the season, he may have done just enough to secure his space on Tyneside next season.

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