Newcastle United have been handed a major boost with the news that striker Dwight Gayle has been passed fit to play in Sunday’s title decider against Barnsley.
The forward, who has hit 20 goals this season for the Magpies, is desperate to feature in the club’s final Sky Bet Championship fixture, according to the Northern Echo.
— dwight gayle (@dwightgayle) April 24, 2017
However, it remains to be seen if manager Rafael Benitez will risk using the former Crystal Palace man.
Gayle has been dogged with hamstring problems this year, a recurring issue that has limited the predatory striker to only five starts in 2017.
Those issues have scuppered the striker’s chances of winning the Championship Golden Boot and Benitez will be wary that a fourth re-occurrence of the problem could well see the striker miss some pivotal pre-season training for next season.
Newcastle head into the final game of the campaign one point behind leaders Brighton and Hove Albion, who are managed by Chris Hughton – the man who took the Magpies back to the Premier League in 2010.
The two sides are in contrasting form heading into the final round of fixtures though, with the Seagulls suffering back-to-back defeats against Norwich City and Bristol City recently.
Benitez’s side have negotiated the same period with convincing wins over Preston North End and Cardiff City, reigniting a title race that looked all but over three games ago.
Now, Brighton must head to Aston Villa – the scene of Newcastle’s relegation eight years ago – and arrest this untimely run of form to finish a breathtaking season with the title.
However, the Magpies must focus on Barnsley and do their own job first before any curious glances can be cast towards Villa Park.
Newcastle have a very good record without Gayle this season and Benitez may well be tempted to afford his star striker an early finish to the campaign – despite the player’s wishes.
That may well anger sections of the St James’ Park faithful, who will demand a full strength XI to give the Geordies the best possible chance of capturing a championship which seemed so distant in mid-April.