Saint-Maximin and Wilson both fit for Hammers clash
Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce says influential attacking duo Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson are both in contention to start against West Ham United on Saturday (12:30pm kick-off).
Frenchman Saint-Maximin stepped off the bench to provide the assist for Jacob Murphy's equaliser at Burnley last weekend, before capping a stunning cameo with a fine individual goal which proved to be the winner at Turf Moor.
And after the 24-year-old's blistering impact against the Clarets last time out, Bruce could yet opt to field Saint-Maximin from the outset at St. James' Park, with both him and England forward Wilson available once again - but warned that the nature of the pair’s injuries mean he has to be careful when it comes to deciding how they’re deployed.
"They’re both available - they’ve both trained, they’re both unscathed since last week when we took the decision to start them on the bench," he said.
"Obviously the clamour is to start the pair of them but we’ve got to look at the situation and manage it because they’ve both been out for a long time with muscle injuries, so we have to guard against it. They both rely so much on their pace and their power.
"But they’re both available, so that’s good news for everybody concerned."
Bruce added: "You only have to look at statistics for the two of them to realise that when they're in the team, we're simply better. The facts are there in front of you. I think Allan’s only started something like 11 or 12 games this season, and we’ve won six of them.
"Let's hope they can stay fit, let's hope they can go to the end of the season, because we know - and I think everybody knows - that we're a far better side when they're in it than when they're not in it. It's quite simple."
While Saint-Maximin and Wilson are in contention and defender Fabian Schär is gradually stepping up his return from injury on the training ground, the game will again come too soon for Ryan Fraser, who is not yet ready to return after suffering a setback while with Scotland during the recent international break.
"Ryan Fraser is not fit unfortunately," Bruce confirmed. "He's got a groin problem which he picked up when he was away with Scotland.
"It's been a frustrating time for Ryan. We've never got him up to speed really, it's been stop-start. When he joined a new club, with the restricted pre-season that we had, all the things that roll into it, it's been a frustrating time for Ryan and frustrating time for us all, because we've never really seen the best of him, in my opinion, with the problems he’s had."
David Moyes’ side arrive on Tyneside seeking a win to further boost their hopes of European qualification at the end of what has been a stellar season so far for the Hammers.
And head coach Bruce feels his opposite number this weekend has his vote for manager of the year after overseeing their transformation into top-four contenders.
"No disrespect to West Ham, but nobody expected them to be, with six or seven games to play, competing for the Champions League with who they are and what they’re up against. Fair play to them," said Bruce.
"I'm delighted for Moyesy - he's proven again what a top class manager he is, and even if they don't quite make it, they've had a wonderful season. To be in this position now is a terrific achievement by them."