Steve Bruce explains Dwight Gayle decision after Newcastle United fail to score
Steve Bruce has revealed why he left Dwight Gayle on Newcastle United’s bench.
Bruce’s side are just a point above the Premier League’s relegation zone following their goalless draw with second-bottom West Bromwich Albion – and Fulham's win over Liverpool – with 11 games left to play.
Bruce made three changes for the club’s visit to The Hawthorns, but he didn’t bring Gayle into his starting XI.
United’s head coach, without Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, recalled Ryan Fraser, Jeff Hendrick and Paul Dummett to his team – and Gayle came off the bench in the second half.
Bruce said playing Gayle and Andy Carroll – who was sent on in added time – would have meant changing the split-striker system he has used since Graeme Jones’s arrival at St James’s Park in late January.
“I think it was important not to disturb the shape that we’ve been playing in the last six weeks or so,” said Bruce, who fielded Arsenal loanee Willock as a No.10 in the absence of Almiron.
“The players are getting used to the way we want to play, so I thought it was imperative we stuck with that.
“Joe (Willock) has played as a No.10 on many occasions through his career at Arsenal, so with the problems we have, it was simply a case of trying to find a way of winning the match and not disrupting the way we have been playing too much.
“If we had played Andy and Dwight, then we’d have to change the whole set-up, and I don’t think we had time to do that.
"We’re getting used to playing in a certain way, it’s the way I want to play, but unfortunately, having come up with the system, we’ve been struck down by the loss of Almiron, Callum and Allan.
"It’s been very difficult to try to replace them.”
Reflecting on the game, Bruce added: “We’re disappointed we didn’t win, but the one thing that was vitally important was that we didn’t get beat.
“With the problems we’ve had, which have been pretty evident over the last five or six, and more importantly, the injuries we’ve carried at the top end of the pitch, we always knew it was going to be difficult.”