Pundit Noel Whelan has criticised Newcastle United’s decision to hand Dwight Gayle a new contract.
What did he say?
Following the news from The Athletic that the 31-year-old had agreed a new three-year deal on Tyneside, Whelan was critical and hinted he didn’t believe manager Steve Bruce would be at the club at the end of the season.
“I’m shocked to hear he’s been given a new deal, because I do not think Steve Bruce will be there until the end of the year,” he said to Football Insider.
“He has done an average job. He started off OK but they have completely tailed off.
“Newcastle are deep in a relegation battle so to hand out contracts now, when everything is up in the air, I find that pretty bewildering.
“It is not as if he has been given much game time. How can you hand out a three-year contract to a player who has barely played, under a manager who might not be there?”
Is he right?
While it’s hard to suggest Newcastle could get much better than Gayle as a back-up striker, who could also potentially lead the line should the club return to the Championship given his record of 59 goals in 100 games at that level, it is perhaps surprising to see him handed a long-term deal after a stop-start season.
Indeed, though injuries have played a part, Gayle has started only twice despite being included in eighteen match day squads since returning from his knee problem in December and wasn’t even brought on during the loss at Brighton before the international break.
Will Bruce still be here?
That’s the million-dollar question, of course.
The Telegraph recently revealed that Bruce was likely to remain in charge until at least the end of the season and he does still have over a year on his contract. So, should Newcastle manage to stay up, it’s hard to see Mike Ashley suddenly making a change considering he has so far been reluctant to cave into the pressure to remove the 60-year-old.
At this stage, no one is quite sure what relegation would bring for Bruce but The Athletic did recently suggest that he may not continue in that event, though Ashley hasn’t exactly put his manager under much pressure from above so far.