NUFC: Could Joe Willock be set to stay on Tyneside after goalscoring run?

Joe Willock scored the one and only goal at St James' against Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday night Credit: PA

Joe Willock has hinted his future could lie at Newcastle after writing another chapter in his remarkable loan spell.

The 21-year-old Arsenal midfielder scored his sixth goal in as many Premier League games for the Magpies in Wednesday's 1-0 win over relegated Sheffield United, taking his tally to seven since he arrived at St James' Park in January.

If that does not win him a role in Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta's plans for next season, Newcastle will be at the top of what is sure to be a growing list of suitors.

10,000 NUFC fans were welcomed back into St James' Park to watch the final game of the season against Sheffield United. Supporters were socially distanced in line with covid restrictions.

Manager Steve Bruce has already signalled his intention to have a conversation with the Gunners about the player's future and Willock has indicated he will listen to what the Tyneside club has to say.

Asked what message he had for fans who implored him to stay during and after the game, he told NUFC TV: "I want to say thank you for making me feel so welcome and thank you for greeting me with open arms.

Willock is the first Newcastle player since striker Papiss Cisse to score in six successive top-flight appearances for the club, and his intervention against the Blades proved decisive.

He struck with a firm downward header four minutes into first-half stoppage time, providing the perfect finish to a move which included Allan Saint-Maximin's sublime pass and Jacob Murphy's inviting cross.

Reacting to Willock's goal, NUFC boss Steve Bruce said 'it was real quality'.

The midfielder said: "To make history at this special club is special for me. I came here on loan to help the team and it's turned into a brilliant story."

If Willock was the toast of the Toon Army, Bruce was a target for the boo boys among a crowd of 10,000, back inside St James' for the first time since February 2020, as he and the players completed a lap of appreciation after the final whistle.

He shrugged off the jeers, but Newcastle remains a club in a state of flux with unpopular owner Mike Ashley fighting a legal battle to be allowed to sell to a largely Saudi-funded consortium which may or may not want the former Manchester United defender to remain at the helm if a takeover is eventually completed.

They can at least plan for life among English football's top flight once again, unlike the visitors.

The Blades arrived in the north-east already knowing they will play in the Sky Bet Championship next season without Chris Wilder, the man who took them up.

Caretaker manager Paul Heckingbottom said: "The hard work Chris and the boys did last season had us in the Premier League and we stayed there and then had another season, this season.

"Unfortunately it's ended up with us going down, but you have to then build from those two years in the Premier League and be stronger the next time you come up."