Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce has said he'll have to carefully manage striker Andy Carroll if he is to get the best out of him.

Carroll made his first Premier League start of the season in the game against Sheffield United on Thursday night, which the Magpies won 2-0.

Bruce said that looking after the 30-year-old was essential and that he was an important figure in the team.

He said: "Andy can be hugely important. We need to make sure we look after him. He had been performing in training for the past four or five weeks before he unfortunately nicked a little rib muscle, which is always painful.

"When that was okay, he was ready to go."

Andy has a physicality and a presence about him. He is also a very, very good player when he is right and gives everybody a lift.

Steve Bruce

Bruce will make a late decision on whether to give Carroll a rest and deploy the £40million Brazilian striker Joelinton in his place.

He said: "We will see how Andy recovers and assess him on Saturday. It might be asking too much, but I will see how he is."

Steve Bruce has oversaw steady progress in recent weeks Credit: PA Images

The Magpies manager has oversaw a steady progression of late. His appointment had been met by dismay from some sections of Newcastle's fanbase when it was first announced.

Bruce said he feels the recent improvement in form and results - including taking a point at home to the Premier League champions Manchester City - has been a collective effort.

He said: "The most important thing is trying to recreate a spirit in the working environment. From the press lads to the caretakers, to the cleaners and to the chefs. I want everybody concerned to come into work and enjoy coming into work, that goes for the players too.

"Since I came through the door we have had one or two poor performances, but all in all I couldn't have asked for much more from the players."

He added: "When you get some results against the big teams, then they are prepared to run a million miles and cover the distances that they have covered.

"They have bought into what we are trying to do. There is still a lot more to do, but we will keep working on things."

Bruce said he feels the clash against an improving Southampton is "arguably our biggest" of the campaign so far.

He said: "We have a good opportunity in the coming matches, playing teams who are in and around us, with four of the next six at home, so it is a wonderful opportunity.

"But when I look through Southampton's squad, they have some very good players - so it is a hard challenge again."

Newcastle's game with Southampton takes place on Sunday. Kick off is at 14:00.