Newcastle United have received a timely boost with the return of top goalscorer Callum Wilson ahead of Friday night’s trip to Crystal Palace as manager Steve Bruce looks to kickstart a stuttering campaign. Bruce has met with senior players this week to discuss what has gone wrong in recent weeks as they head into a crucial run of fixtures starting against Palace. After that his team play Aston Villa, West Brom, Leeds and Fulham before a Carabao Cup quarter final against Brentford and Bruce knows this period is likely to define the first half of the campaign as a success or failure. Although Newcastle are seven points clear of the bottom three, they have slipped down to 15th in the table and have only played well in a handful of games this season. That has prompted Bruce to act, stressing to his players that they have to be brave to play for a club like Newcastle and block out the negativity that engulfs the club when results and performances dip below what is expected from them. He has made no attempt to sugar coat things, insisting it is up to both players and staff to improve things while reminding them how good they are when they get things right. Confidence does appear to have dipped since the home win over Everton at the start of the month, but Bruce is adamant they are a far better team than the one comfortably beaten by Southampton and Chelsea. It is now the time for them to show it against the teams around them in the table. The return of Wilson from a hamstring injury will give everyone a lift, not just because of the goal threat he offers, but also because of his ability to run in behind defences and the quality of his general link up play. Newcastle could also welcome back their most creative central midfield player, Jonjo Shelvey, against Palace. Although Shelvey frustrates supporters, the team miss his passing ability in the middle of the pitch when he is not there. Bruce has also challenged winger Allan Saint-Maximin to rise to the challenge of opposition teams ganging up on him as they look to deprive him of time and space on the ball. The Frenchman has been poor since he signed his new contract at the end of October and has only managed one goal and an assist so far this season.
Chelsea and Liverpool are both within range of the top four after West Ham lost at Newcastle, while Sheffield United's relegation has been confirmed.
Hold on to your hats everyone, the roadrunner himself, Mr Adama Traore, is well and truly back. This season has been one to write off and quickly forget about from a Wolves perspective. That can be...