Steve Bruce set to make awkward Premier League squad slot decision with Newcastle United outcast recall
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According to Premier League sources, squad lists for the second half of the season must be filed and announced in advance of the next round of fixtures, starting this weekend.
And rules state that if clubs have enough eligible players, they must name the full 25-man quota and cannot leave a space in their ranks.
That leaves Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce with a call to make – and a potentially embarrassing u-turn on a player he decided to leave out when he first named his 2020/21 squad at the end of the summer transfer window.
Due to the departure of DeAndre Yedlin to Galatasaray on February 1, United now have one free space in their 25-man squad.
The signing of Arsenal’s Joe Willock on a loan deal to the end of the season does not fill that gap, as the player’s age – 21 – means he is underage and does not meet the criteria, much like Matty Longstaff.
The space was expected to be filled by Hamza Choudhury, but that deal fell through on deadline day despite the fact United had agreed terms and the player was keen to move to Tyneside.
Bruce must now decide whether he calls in one of three first-team outcasts or one of two overage players currently in the club’s under-23 setup.
The most likely player to get the call up is winger Christian Atsu.
The Ghanaian, in the final months of his deal, was deemed surplus to requirements this season by Bruce – but is in pole position for a potential swansong with the Magpies.
Atsu started the season training away from the first-team group but has, in recent times, been reintegrated to the player pool.
Midfielder Henri Saivet has also been involved in first-team training this campaign, but is an outsider to get called in to the squad with a surplus of midfielders currently in the United ranks.
Achraf Lazaar, who unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a January exit back to Italy, is the least likely to be called up.
Bruce could, theoretically, also opt to bring in one of two under-23 players – with Florent Indalecio and Kyle Scott both qualifying.