Steve Bruce issues update on Arsenal loanee Joe Willock's Newcastle United future
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However, the midfielder, signed on loan from Arsenal in January’s transfer window, again reacted in the right way – and, for the second successive home game, Willock came off the bench and found the net.
A late strike from Willock gave Newcastle United a hard-fought 3-2 win over West Ham United yesterday – and edged the relegation-threatened club towards Premier League safety.
The 21-year-old powerfully headed a left-wing Matt Ritchie cross past Lukasz Fabianski two minutes after coming on to take his goal tally for the club to three from nine appearances.
However, Willock had been unlucky not to make Bruce’s starting XI, having trained well ahead of the game.
“He had a really good start, and scored on his debut (against Southampton),” said Bruce. “So he’s now got three goals, vitally important ones.
"The reason we brought him to the club was that he’s got the ability to get forward and score a goal. Thankfully, he’s done it again. He’s obviously disappointed that he didn’t start, because he was in my thoughts. He trained so well. We didn’t feel as if he dropped off slightly a little bit, which, as a young lad, happens.
"So I’m delighted that he’s got the winner, how important it’s been.”
Bruce is keen to keep Willock at St James’s Park beyond the end of the season, though his future’s in the hands of Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.
“We’d love to keep him here,” said Bruce. “He’s the type of player you’d love to build your club around. Whether we can (keep him) or not, I’m not quite sure.”
The result moved Newcastle nine points clear of third-bottom Fulham, though Bruce doesn’t believe his team, which had beaten Burnley a week earlier, is yet safe.
"I can't say that,” said United's head coach. “With this club, there’s always a sting in the tail. There is no disputing it’s been a difficult last few weeks, but we have lost one of our last seven games, and are starting to show that bit of consistency."