Dwight Gayle started 21 of Newcastle’s first 26 Championship matches last season, scoring 20 goals.
After scoring and picking up yet another hamstring injury against Brentford on 14 January 2017, Gayle then missed a number of matches, returning for the Aston Villa home match on 20 February.
A week before that Villa game, Rafa Benitez suggested that getting his main striker back playing, was at least as much a mental thing as a physical thing, saying ‘It depends on him…he has trained OK. But sometimes it is the confidence of the player, so we will see how he feels.’
After only 33 minutes of that Villa game, Dwight Gayle was subbed, saying he didn’t feel right.
In the final 20 games of the Championship season, he only started five matches and score three goals, with ongoing worries about Dwight Gayle feeling confident of playing again without worries over his recurring hamstring problems.
Kicking off the friendlies with both goals in a 2-1 win at Hearts, Newcastle’s number nine burst out laughing when it was suggested after the game that his hamstring problems were ‘clearly behind’ him. Saying ‘I wouldn’t say that. Just seeing how it goes and fingers crossed’.
With just 30 minutes in the last three friendlies and no time on the pitch in the last two games, Dwight Gayle’s fears appear to have proved correct.
However, just like back in February, Rafa Benitez once again says it is very much a ‘confidence’ thing, rather than purely a hamstring issue.
A key part of the forward’s game is his pace and Rafa says that Dwight Gayle has to regain the ‘confidence to know he can sprint’ and that they are working in training to try and help him do that.
The last player Newcastle needed to have missing this coming season, with a ‘hamstring niggle’ and ‘confidence’ issues, difficult to see Gayle starting against Spurs – so best hope is we could see him on the bench and potentially involved in a cameo later on, with a first Premier League start for Newcastle just around the corner.
Just like Dwight Gayle, Newcastle fans will have ‘fingers crossed’.
Rafa Benitez – 6 August 2017:
”It’s not his hamstring – it’s more the feeling that he has. He’s not comfortable and we don’t want to take any risks.
“Dwight is training with the fitness coach, so hopefully he can carry on training this week.
“He needs the confidence to know he can sprint and do everything as he was doing before.
“It’s a question of confidence, so we will carry on pushing him in training and hopefully we can get back the confidence.”
Dwight Gayle interviewed – 15 July 2017 (after scoring twice v Hearts):
‘Towards the back end of last season you were plagued by that hamstring trouble a little bit. That’s clearly behind you now, it is all in the past?’
In response, Dwight Gayle burst out laughing at the playing down of his injury problems and said:
“I wouldn’t say that. Just seeing how it goes and fingers crossed I can get as many games as possible next season.”
Rafa Benitez – 13 February 2017:
“It depends on him (Dwight Gayle).
“He is training with the team and he has trained OK.
“But sometimes it is the confidence of the player, so we will see how he feels.”