Woodman to make Premier League debut against Hammers, says Bruce
Freddie Woodman will make his Premier League debut Newcastle United’s season opener on Sunday, head coach Steve Bruce has confirmed.
United start their season against the Hammers (2pm kick-off) – the team they beat 2-0 at the London Stadium in their first outing last term.
And with usual number one Martin Dúbravka injured and Karl Darlow still working his way back after illness, Bruce says he is ready to hand a top flight bow to 24-year-old Woodman – the winner of the Championship's golden glove during his second loan spell at Swansea City last season.
"It’s pretty straightforward really. Obviously Martin's not fit, and it doesn't look as if Karl Darlow's going to right with his episode. I think it's been well-documented that he's been suffering with COVID," said Bruce. "Karl found himself in hospital for the best part of a week, dropped over a stone and a half in weight and it's really knocked him around.
"Freddie will get his chance. He's waited patiently. He's played for the last two years. Always, there's somebody falling down with injury or illness, and it opens the door for somebody else.
"It's Freddie's big opportunity, he's waited patiently, but I've been very, very pleased with what I've seen over the last six weeks in particular – and the reports that we had from Swansea have always been very, very positive about the kid."
He added: "We're fortunate in that department of course, and it's such a crucial part of your team. Unfortunately we've lost a couple, but we've still got a really, really good young player coming in."
The Magpies strong finish to 2020/21 saw them secure a 12th-place finish, adding to two previous finishes in 13th place and a solitary tenth spot across the past four seasons.
And Bruce wants to see his side build on their promising end to the last campaign.
"That's got to be the aim of everybody concerned – to improve," he said.
"In the end we got to a respectable 12th position. We started well, we finished well, had an awful few months over the winter – so can we add that bit more consistency? Can we stay a bit fitter in certain areas?
"For me, it's to try, slowly, always, to improve on where we finished last year."
And the head coach is hoping his charges will be able to kick-off their season in similar fashion to last year, when goals from Callum Wilson and Jeff Hendrick sealed a 2-0 win over Sunday’s visitors.
"We hope so. We got off to a great start," he said.
"It just shows you – West Ham got off to a not-so-good start last year but had a wonderful season. You have to pay huge respect to David (Moyes) and his squad for finishing sixth the way they did – nobody would have predicted that.
"But they’re going to play in Europe this year, and fair play to them. They’ve done fantastically well."
The United boss also confirmed that goalkeeper Dúbravka remains the only longer-term absentee in his squad through injury.
But Bruce said that the opening day clash had also come too soon for one of his most experienced defenders.
"The only one so far is Paul Dummett – he won’t make it," he revealed. "But everybody else is fit and available."