The Athletic’s Chris Waugh has heaped praise on Joe Willock for his performance in Newcastle United’s opening day victory in the Premier League.
It was a memorable and very impressive performance from pretty much everyone in black and white at St James’ Park on Saturday, as Newcastle brushed their opponents aside with a 2-0 victory.
However, prior to kick off, there may well have been some shocked fans on Tyneside as new £30m signing Sven Botman took up a spot on the bench, while Sean Longstaff – who Eddie Howe picked out for praise prior to the season kicking off – was not handed a start in the absence of Jonjo Shelvey, with Willock handed a starting role instead.
And while speaking on Pod on the Tyne, Waugh admitted he was slightly surprised by that particular decision, but went on to praise Willock for his performance.
“I particularly want to give a shoutout for Joe Willock, because before the game, I think he was maybe one of the players who – and myself included in this – people thought was maybe a little bit fortunate to start because Sean Longstaff had been very good during pre-season. If Jonjo Shelvey had been fit, I’m not sure that Willock would have started either, but he was excellent.
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“He covered so much ground, he carried a lot of [the] ball, made a lot of runs, overlapping and underlapping runs.”
TIF Thoughts on Willock…
It was indeed a very impressive individual performance by Willock, who carried the ball forward the third-most in the Newcastle side, won the most tackles and was only dispossessed once during the 79 minutes he was on the pitch (as per FBRef).
Willock certainly grasped the chance handed to him courtesy of Shelvey’s injury, and the faith that Eddie Howe put in the young midfielder will likely see his confidence grow further as the Magpies head into what will be a more difficult task against a Brighton & Hove Albion side who picked up three points away to Manchester United last weekend.