The new season starts on Sunday so let’s go again with press conference coverage from today. The manager had a few things to talk about and we will go over each of them, but can we take this time to mark the end of badgering. Mikel Arteta is rumoured to be delighted, clearly it was only Joe Willock we were bothered about, as we are now bubbling away in one or two deals. Interesting change, but at least it actually makes some sense as a statement.

The first topic of conversation was Joe Willock. It was confirmed that the player was at the training ground, going through his medical and hopefully training with the squad this afternoon. A number of places were maintaining the need to make the 12pm deadline to ensure he was registered in time for the West Ham game. Madness really since the fee was agreed at the weekend and we seem to be (again) dragging on personal terms issues when this was our number one target. He knew that, Arsenal knew that and we were therefore on the back foot in negotiations. Classic Newcastle, spend all summer chasing one player, then drag negotiations out as long as possible.

A phrase that Bruce used about this issue “we all want him available for West Ham, but we’ve now got him for the next six years, which is great”.

However, this is only true if the player does stay for the length of his contract, as all Newcastle fans know the likelihood of that is probably the same as when Pardew and co signed their eight year deal. If he succeeds to anywhere near the level he did last season, two years might be the most we see of him.

The other interesting admission from Bruce was that we originally only wanted Willock back on loan but they refused. Can only imagine that the owner is livid with having to part with money to make the squad at the same level as it was at the end of the previous season. However, Bruce was honest enough to say when asked about potential departures ‘That’s an option. Before you bring anybody in, you’ve got to make room’. So will the investment of over twenty million be met by a sale of an equivalent value, possibly with a certain Frenchman who is likely to be the only player who can command that fee.

The next update was on the damage done to the squad by COVID and in particular the goalkeeping situation. Karl Darlow appears to be through the worst of it but Bruce’s description of an extremely healthy young man being hospitalised for a week and losing a stone and a half in weight. Fair play to the manager where it is due, he also mentioned this as a reason for young people to get vaccinated. I have to say that Bruce has handled COVID stuff really well, if only he put the same dedication into the main part of his job. Martin Dubravka also being injured has meant that it is now clear that Freddie Woodman is staying and will start on Sunday.

Now, I will have to say that I have not seen that much of Woodman. I watched him at SJP in an FA Cup tie versus Luton a few years ago and I was not too impressed. However, he has apparently excelled at Swansea over the last two years. Let’s hope he takes his chance to show his stuff. Of concern, however, is that Arsenal seem to be put off Ramsdale by the price tag, I imagine their interest in Woodman may resurface if he plays well. The manager regularly preached patience to him and said today “It’s Freddie’s big opportunity. I’ve been very, very pleased with what I’ve seen over the last six weeks”. This is good in terms of lifting the player up and saying how well he has done, not sure he needs the pressure of him being told this is his big opportunity though.

Lastly after all this was the news that one or two deals are still “bubbling away”. The club have denied they made a bid to Roma and Marseille this week, but the target position of left back and central defence still seem to be the ones needing bolstered. I am still most concerned that we have not been linked with another striker, we are a Callum Wilson injury away from relying on Dwight Gayle again, a player who the manager had playing wide right away at Chelsea … still don’t get that.

Finally on this, Bruce said the following when asked about future deals: “From the club’s point of view, they’ve gone above and beyond where I thought we were going to go.” So the manager was aware that the club was not looking to invest in this window unless necessary. This is wilful negligence from the owner, the club needed Willock to keep them up last season, not sure we can rely on a 21 year old to keep scoring a goal a game to keep us up. Even saying that he wasn’t sure the Willock deal “at times … would be possible”.

This should concern us most of all going forward. The media were happy to say that Bruce had changed Ashley’s policy in summer 2020 and adding Wilson, Lewis, Hendrick and Fraser for £35 million was a fantastic coup. The fact we might have ended this window with no investment and potentially no additions shows the owner has not changed at all. Let’s see if it is enough between now and January.

Stephen Ord  @smord84