Newcastle United manager Eddie Howe has revealed Joe Willock needed to be told he had to grow up, work harder and focus more after a rough period at the club for the 22-year-old.

WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Joe Willock of Newcastle United warms up prior to the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United at Molineux on October 02, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
WOLVERHAMPTON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 02: Joe Willock of Newcastle United warms up prior to the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United at Molineux on October 02, 2021 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Joe Willock was the only player to be sold by Arsenal during the summer transfer window but has endured a largely disappointing spell since his £26.5m move to Newcastle United.

I think it’s safe to say that the Newcastle United that Joe Willock now finds himself at is not the one he thought he had joined when he opted to build on his hugely successful loan last season.

Seven goals in seven appearances for Newcastle convinced Steve Bruce to make the 22-year-old his number one summer target and he was eventually able to land his man.

Bruce might have been far from popular at St James’s Park, but the signing of Willock was a popular choice. His champion, however, was gone from the club not long after Willock’s arrival when the Saudi takeover happened

It took Willock until last weekend against West Ham to find the back of the net for the first time this season. Then he repeated the trick against Brentford this weekend.

Speaking a few months ago, Willock said he wasn’t quite sure what the problem was.

“I know what I can do and I know I’m going to show what I can do, you know, and help the team in every possible way,” Willock said.

Newcastle United's English midfielder Joe Willock celebrates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Newcastle United at the London Stadium, in London on February 19, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Newcastle United’s English midfielder Joe Willock celebrates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Newcastle United at the London Stadium, in London on February 19, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

“There’s so many different factors in football — there’s a lot of things going on. As a team, we’re not really playing how we were last season, or at the back end of last season, so that’s a big factor.

“Also, I’ve had a few problems with my injuries, and not having a pre-season has really affected me with getting to the fitness levels I play at. My game’s really based on having a high fitness level, to be able to get from box to box and create chances.”

Speaking to the media this weekend, however, Howe made some rather telling comments.

“Joe needed to grow up,” Howe said as he revealed tough love was needed.

“He needed to work harder and he needed to focus more.”

Towards the end of September, Willock was hurt in a fluke training ground accident, kicking the ground and managing to damage the capsule in his toe.

It was expected to rule him out for at least one game but he was in the starting lineup the day after Bruce had ruled him out.

Newcastle United's English midfielder Joe Willock celebrates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Newcastle United at the London Stadium, in London on February 19, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Newcastle United’s English midfielder Joe Willock celebrates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham and Newcastle United at the London Stadium, in London on February 19, 2022. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

So, while injuries might have interrupted his training, he’s been available for every Newcastle match this season apart from the one he missed at the end of December due to Covid.

In total, Willock had played 19 times this season, without a goal or assist before that West Ham match.

Now he has two in two.

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Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of DailyCannon.com, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, Vice.com & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.