What’s going on with Dwight Gayle?
Why are we even talking about the possible departure of Newcastle United’s No 9, a £15million target for Fulham, ahead of the transfer deadline?
It’s an odd situation.
Gayle, signed from Crystal Palace last summer, scored 23 goals last season.
He was a success story. And he’d have scored even more had he not been troubled with hamstring problems in the second half of last season. And Gayle’s best years are ahead of him.
Surely the striker, having contributed so much to the club’s promotion, would be relishing Newcastle’s return to the Premier League?
Yet something’s not been right over the past few weeks.
It’s clear that Gayle’s relationship with manager Rafa Benitez has become strained.
Can it be patched up?
There have been tensions over the treatment of the hamstring “issue” which Benitez spoke about earlier this month.
They both, it seems, had different ideas about the best way forward.
Certainly, Gayle didn’t look himself in the first two games of the Premier League season.
He seemed to lack confidence in his hamstring, which is a problem if you’re as quick as him. Newcastle need Gayle going full pelt.
One report this week said Gayle had become “disillusioned”.
During transfer windows there are always other forces at work. Agents make money on moves, and seemingly settled players can quickly become unsettled as transfer deadline day approaches.
However, Gayle, whatever his frustrations, has not indicated that he wants to leave Newcastle.
In the background, there’s another issue.
United’s players still haven’t agreed to a bonus sheet for the 2017-18 campaign. It needs to be resolved. And quickly.
Other Premier League squads will be handsomely rewarded for staying up this season.
Newcastle’s players, understandably, want parity, at least, with comparable clubs. They talk to friends at other clubs and they know what’s been offered elsewhere.
They want a bonus structure in line with United’s Premier League status.
Has this unsettled Gayle?
Still, the players – as we saw against West Ham United last weekend – are getting on with their jobs while discussions continue.
Gayle, though, wasn’t involved, despite recovering from the illness which had seen him miss the midweek Carabao Cup tie against Nottingham Forest.
Benitez made a telling remark ahead of the West Ham game, which Newcastle went on to win 3-0.
Gayle, he said, needed to “go back to his level”.
Joselu and Aleksandar Mitrovic, Benitez’s other two strikers, scored in the game.
Gayle, however, is perfect for the way Newcastle play away from home.
All last season, United soaked up pressure and hit teams on the break.
It’ll be harder to do that in the top flight, but Jonjo Shelvey and Mikel Merino can see a pass, and Gayle’s pace will cause problems and create chances.
Any sale would be dependent on Newcastle securing a replacement in time, and that’s problematic at this late stage.
United fans have long memories, and the sale of Andy Carroll on transfer deadline day six and a half years ago won’t be forgotten any time soon.