Dwight Gayle has not experienced a smooth ride this season at St James’ Park. The striker did not start a Premier League match until Boxing Day and had not found the back of the net in the division when the top-flight was put on pause.
Nevertheless, since the return, the 29-year-old has arguably been Steve Bruce’s first choice to lead the line, and he has vindicated the manager’s decision by firing in four goals. Somehow, that left the Englishman as Newcastle’s second-highest scorer in the Premier League this season, and it has led to further backing from the Magpies’ manager.
What did he say?
Speaking to the Chronicle, Bruce said: “He’s a player who has been blighted by injury. By the time I arrived in China [on preseason tour], he had a bad calf, and it took weeks and months to get over. Then he did the other one, and it took weeks and months to get over again.”
“He’s had a great end to the season though, so let’s hope he can have a really decent summer and come back firing because he’s reminded everybody that he’s a goalscorer.
“I’ve said that from day one, from the day I walked through the door here, that the kid’s a goalscorer. Given the opportunity, he’ll score, because that’s what he’s done all through his career,” added the Newcastle boss.
Due to persistent injury issues, as Bruce mentioned, and limited minutes on the pitch, Gayle did not find the back of the net until the June 24, by which point he would typically be enjoying his brief time off between campaigns. But in the most unusual of Premier League seasons, the 29-year-old exploded out of the blocks after the restart, just as he did against Liverpool on the final day, scoring after 25 seconds.
Somehow, Gayle finished the season as comfortably Newcastle’s highest-scoring striker on four goals, having notched double Joelinton’s two top-flight strikes. The Englishman played 1850 fewer minutes than the Magpies’ record signing, highlighting the stratospheric difference in their goalscoring potency.
Gayle enters the final year of his contract at St James’ Park next season, and it will be interesting to see what sort of a deal he is offered, if any, once he turns 30. It seems clear that Bruce wants the striker to remain in the northeast, but given he has just 25 goals in 119 Premier League appearances, it is unlikely he will be the long term solution upfront.