NEWCASTLE UNITED have opened new contract talks with a number of their senior players, with new boss Steve Bruce keen to ensure the core members of his squad are committed to long-term deals.

With the transfer window now closed, Bruce’s off-field attention ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League opener with Arsenal has switched to tying down what he regards as the spine of his side.

Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, skipper Jamaal Lascelles, wing-back Matt Ritchie and midfielder Isaac Hayden will all be offered new contracts, with Bruce keen to reward his senior players for their performances over the last two seasons.

Managing director Lee Charnley has already held preliminary discussions with some of the players and their representatives, and Bruce is hoping to make rapid progress now the transfer deadline has passed.

“The core of the club is a group of players who have been here two or three years, and they’re vitally important,” said the Newcastle boss, who will preside over his first competitive fixture in charge of the club when Arsenal travel to St James’ Park tomorrow afternoon. “It’s important that the vast majority are English or British too.

“They get it, they grasp it, they understand what it means. I think the players who come from abroad get it as soon as they get here, but they maybe don’t really grasp it until they actually arrive.

“There’s a huge intensity about it all, so it’s vitally important that the ones who have been here, they deserve a big pat on the back. They deserve new deals, which we need to tie them up to. I think Lee’s already spoken to two or three.

“You look at where the club has come from, and three years ago, they blew away the Championship. The players that were brought in were too good for the Championship, and of those players, five or six are still the nucleus of the squad.

“They deserve big credit, and that is why I want to reward them. I’ve had a conversation with Lee, and (he feels) exactly the same too. We’ll be sitting down and talking to four or five of them to make sure that cornerstone remains.”

The fact Hayden forms part of that group highlights the extent to which the midfielder’s personal situation has shifted since he was desperate to engineer an exit from Tyneside 12 months ago.

Having freely admitted to wanting to move south to be closer to his partner and young daughter in both of last season’s transfer windows, the 24-year-old is now much more settled in the North-East.

As a result, he was not the subject of any outside interest on Thursday, and Bruce is hopeful he will agree to a new long-term deal that would resolve any lingering questions over his future once and for all.

“I never want to talk about people’s personal circumstances, but I think there’s been a little change in that too,” said Bruce. “He’s indicated he’s willing to sit down and talk to us. I’m delighted of course. Him, Matt Ritchie, the goalkeeper, the captain – there’s probably four or five we want to talk to.”

Bruce will hand competitive debuts to Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin on Sunday – Jetro Willems and Emil Krafth are unlikely to start given their lack of training time since their moves from Eintracht Frankfurt and Amiens respectively – but while Newcastle spent around £65m on transfers this summer, the move that commanded the most attention was one that cost nothing.

Andy Carroll’s return as a free agent was a genuine moment of deadline-day drama, and Bruce regards the striker’s one-year deal as a risk-free piece of business.

He does not expect the 30-year-old to be available for around a month – September’s visit to his former club, Liverpool, has been pencilled in as a possible return date – but is confident Carroll will have a positive impact both on and off the pitch this season.

“He was desperate to come back, like myself I suppose,” said Bruce. “The big question is, ‘Can we get him back quickly and keep him fit?’ If he stays fit, a fit Andy Carroll is as good as you get so it was a no-brainer really.

“He’s not that young Andy Carroll anymore. He’s at that veteran stage, but when the club sold him for a record fee, he was the best pound for pound centre-forward in the country. He can also do a lot off the pitch and that’s why we bought him as well, to give us that hand in the dressing room.”

The idea of Carroll being a guiding light in the dressing room does not really fit with the hell-raising image that the Gateshead-born striker cultivated in his youth, but Bruce feels it would be unfair to judge the 30-year-old on the mistakes he made almost a decade ago.

“He was young, and when you’re young, you always do things you live to regret,” he said. “We’ve all fallen around drunk at one point, haven’t we? I think he’s matured. I’ve had that conversation with him, and that was vitally important. He’s an experienced pro who can help the younger ones adapt, especially the young centre-forward we’ve signed with a huge price tag (Joelinton).”

While Carroll has been included in Newcastle’s 25-man squad list, a failure to offload a number of fringe players on Thursday means some familiar names have missed out.

Jack Colback is not part of the 25, and will therefore play no part in the first half of the season. The same is true of Jamie Sterry, Achraf Lazaar and Henri Saivet, and Bruce is hoping to be able to move the majority on, with the transfer window in Leagues One and Two, Scotland and most of continental Europe still open.

Newcastle (probable, 3-5-2): Dubravka; Schar, Lascelles, Fernandez; Manquillo, Shelvey, Longstaff, Hayden, Ritchie; Almiron, Joelinton.