The contract 'no-brainers' for Newcastle United as clubs wait on Dwight Gayle and Jacob Murphy decisions
There’s work still to be done on the pitch.
And there’s also work to be done off the field before the end of the season.
Newcastle United are nine points above the Premier League’s relegation zone with five games left to play. Steve Bruce’s side is all but safe after a late-season revival.
Joe Willock claimed a point from a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Anfield last weekend with a 95th-minute equaliser.
Three starters – Federico Fernandez, Paul Dummett and Jacob Murphy – and one substitute – Dwight Gayle – are out of contract in the summer, while Willock’s loan from Arsenal will also come to an end. Fabian Schar – who this week returned from injury – is also out of contract at the end of the season.
Here, we look at the contract decisions facing the club.
A new deal for Fernandez is high up the club’s agenda. The 32-year-old has been a pillar of the club’s defence since arriving from Swansea City in the summer of 2018 – and he’s arguably been the club’s most consistent defender.
Fernandez, however, will have options for exactly that reason, and Bruce was coy when asked about his situation after he returned to the starting XI.
“There’s going to be discussions,” said United’s head coach. “To be fair we’ve all concentrated on one thing at the moment, getting results."
Bruce revealed after taking the Newcastle job that he had tried to sign Gayle three times earlier in his managerial career.
Gayle, however, has found his opportunities limited under Bruce by injuries and the form of Callum Wilson, signed from Bournemouth last summer. The striker has only made four Premier League starts this season – and the 30-year-old will be frustrated at not starting more games.
Yet Gayle, 30, is close to committing his future to the club, according to Bruce, who told BBC Newcastle: "It’s almost there, I believe. Good news for him."
Murphy has been a revelation as a wing-back this season, and Bruce wants to see the boyhood Newcastle fan – who kissed the badge on his shirt after scoring against Burnley earlier this month – commit his future to the club.
“I sincerely hope that we tie Jacob Murphy down,” said Bruce. “He’s been a big plus this season after spending a couple of years on loan.”
There’s interest elsewhere in Murphy, but the 26-year-old could well stay at St James's Park.
Dummett has made more United appearances than any player in Bruce’s squad, but this season could yet be his last at the club.
Bruce revealed earlier this month that the club had not yet activated an option for another year on Dummett’s contract.
“I believe we have an option to extend his contract,” said Bruce.
Since Bruce was asked about Dummett at the start of the month, the 29-year-old has helped the club to two wins and two draws.
Dummett has thankfully put the hamstring problems which sidelined him last year behind him – and activating the option is surely a no-brainer for United.
Another no-brainer is the option in Schar’s contract, which the club is expected to activate to extend it by another year. Schar, 29, has shown glimpses of his form this season, and he’s too important to lose.