ANDY CARROLL has put a bigger smile on Steve Bruce’s face during the international break by training with Newcastle United’s first team for the first time since arriving at the beginning of August.

Even though the injury-plagued England striker is still weeks away from making a return to Premier League action, Bruce is satisfied with his progress having realised how unfit he was when the Magpies gambled on signing him.

Carroll has not played since February and only figured for West Ham United 14 times last season so there was always an acceptance that it would take him time to prove his fitness back on his native Tyneside after signing an incentivised deal.

Nevertheless, though, Bruce was delighted to have witnessed the 30-year-old mixing it with his team-mates for the first time this morning and wants to see the progress to continue.

“Andy we'll have to still be patient. However, for the first time today, he joined in with the group to a degree,” said Bruce, aware of how an ankle injury has hampered him for a sustained period now.

“He only took part in half of the session, non-contact, but it's good to see him out kicking a ball again.

“I always knew that it would be towards the end of this month and halfway through the next month really where we are with Andy.”

That means there is no chance of Carroll featuring against leaders Liverpool on Saturday, and Bruce has also revealed neither will Dwight Gayle nor Allan-Saint Maximim despite having the international break to work on their fitness.

“The major ones we're talking about - Dwight, Andy and Saint-Maximin - they're a big three to get fit,” said Bruce. “I can't see any of them being available for this weekend against Liverpool but two of them are progressing.

“Dwight's a big disappointment for me because I have now been here for six, seven weeks but this injury has not got any better - which is a big concern to all of us. Of course, Saint-Maximin now is doing his rehabilitation work. He's out on the grass.

“We have got to build his fitness levels before we treat his hamstring so there is a bit of a conundrum with him at the moment because he hasn't really done any pre-season. Because of the knock backs he's had and the injuries, we haven't been able to get him up to speed to the level I think he requires.”

But Bruce has received some positive news on Matt Ritchie’s recovery. The winger suffered ankle ligament damage in a heavy tackle from Hamza Choudhury against Leicester City in the Carabao Cup and was initially ruled out for two months.

Bruce said: “Matt Ritchie being Matt Ritchie is surprising us all. When I looked over today, he was running. He's back on the training ground running in straight lines. I think that's better news.

“With Matt, the good thing is it's an impact. If it's muscles, it's always a bit of a problem and ligaments and things like that but he's out on the grass and the progress he's made in two weeks is quite remarkable. I think it could be good news for all of us.

“He doesn't look as if he'll be eight weeks I wouldn't think. The way he is at the minute - we don't put timescales on these things - but closer to four or five weeks might be better.”