Newcastle Have a Gem in Allan Saint-Maximin – But Steve Bruce Needs to Learn When to Use Him

21 September 2020 09:45

One of the main criticisms Newcastle fans regularly level at Steve Bruce is that his football isn’t befitting of a club once known as ‘the entertainers’.

In truth, it would be difficult to argue against had the club not bid a hero’s farewell to Rafa Benitez, a man whose football had the ability to cure insomnia.

Nevertheless, Bruce has taken a beating for his pragmatic style of play, as he attempts to fully win over the Toon army.

So, you can probably imagine the look of sheer delight on the Newcastle boss’ face when he first clapped eyes on Allan Saint-Maximin; a tricky, enigmatic, exciting wideman with the ability to get fans on the edge of their seats/armchairs and thrill the adoring fans.

The Frenchman has featured in nearly every game he’s been available for since arriving on Tyneside, with the Newcastle fans’ insistence on watching entertaining football potentially forcing Bruce's hand in terms of his regular selection.

However, Sunday’s defeat to Brighton was a stark reminder to Bruce – Saint-Maximin is a luxury player and he should be treated as such.

If you’ve a spare four hours, type the letters ‘ASM’ into Twitter and let yourself get lost in the plethora of tweets from furious Newcastle fans at around 15:30 on Sunday 20 September.

The former Nice winger had spent the opening half an hour of Newcastle's clash against Brighton staring at the back of Tariq Lamptey’s shirt, with the Seagulls right-back producing a scintillating performance full of energy, drive and endeavour.

Saint-Maximin made very little attempt to track the runs of Lamptey and on the one occasion he did follow the 19-year-old he subsequently conceded a penalty.

However, tracking runners and providing defensive cover isn’t his game. If Bruce was looking for someone to offer Jamal Lewis protection then Saint-Maximin shouldn’t have been anywhere near the starting XI, and the Newcastle faithful ought to look at their boss before pointing the finger at their eccentric winger.

The decision to pit the France Under-21 international against Lamptey is made all the more curious by the fact Jeff Hendrick started on the opposite flank – an industrious midfielder not afraid to sacrifice his attacking intent for the good of the team.

Since arriving from Lique 1 Saint-Maximin has proved a crowd pleaser on Tyneside, with fans all over the country tipping him to be destined for bigger and better things.

However, while his maiden season in the Premier League certainly represented a healthy debut campaign, there's perhaps been a little too much reliance placed on such young shoulders.

The 23-year-old is undoubtedly a quality operator in the right setup, yet fuelled by a Toon Army desperate to see free-flowing, entertaining football, it seems as though Bruce is almost resigned to the fact he has to pick the winger every single game in fear of the backlash he’ll receive should he drop him.

The youngster was substituted shortly after the half hour mark against Brighton after pulling up with an ankle issue, leading some to cruelly speculate he feigned the injury as he didn’t have the heart for the fight.

Sunday’s defeat to Graham Potter’s side was a wakeup call to Bruce and Magpies fans alike - Saint-Maximin needs to be utilised correctly and that doesn't mean starting him every single game when he's clearly going to struggle against certain opposition.

If Newcastle continue to rely so heavily the Frenchman and hang him out to dry whenever he performs badly, they run the risk of shattering the youngster’s confidence, and for a player like him confidence is a massive part of the game.

Source: 90min