On the face of it, Steve Bruce’s declaration that Newcastle United are “very, very short” in midfield, appeared curious.
For a start, he had just fielded four out-and-out midfielders against York City. Isaac Hayden and Jeff Hendrick started, while Sean and Matty Longstaff both appeared off the bench. Jonjo Shelvey’s groin injury will sideline him for a “while” and there is a conspicuous Joe Willock-shaped gap in the side, but in terms of available midfielders, Bruce’s options seem sufficient.
Yet, once the individual situations of the four players who featured are assessed, and exactly what Bruce is hoping to extract from a remoulded engine room is considered, the rationale behind the head coach’s remarks become clearer.
It is also why midfielders have been primary among Newcastle’s enquiries so far this summer, with Bruce wanting at least two additions in the middle of the pitch; ideally one would be Willock, and the second a dynamic defensive destroyer.
As of yet, no signings have arrived. Following Newcastle’s 3-2 friendly victory over Doncaster Rovers on Friday, Bruce offered a stark and realistic, if occasionally optimistic, outlook on the club’s transfer dealings, insisting he would not “bullshit supporters”. The loan market, he stressed, will be vital.