THE statistics are stark. In Joelinton, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin, Newcastle United boast a front three that cost a combined total of more than £75m. Together, they have made 36 Premier League appearances, and in all of those games, they have delivered a grand total of one goal and no assists. Had it not been for Joelinton’s match-winning goal at Tottenham, they would have produced the sum total of nothing.

Individually, all three have shown glimpses of talent, snippets that suggest the sums that were invested in the trio were not completely wasted. Yet as an attacking unit, they are easily the least effective forward line-up in the whole of the Premier League.

Until recently, it could be argued they were the only show in town when it came to picking Newcastle’s attackers. That changed when Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle recovered from their respective injuries, and while neither is quite at full fitness, there must be a temptation to throw in one or both soon.

Soon, but not just yet. Steve Bruce is understandably frustrated at his side’s lack of attacking effectiveness, but as he prepares to take on West Ham United at the London Stadium this afternoon, the Newcastle boss is not quite ready to throw in the towel and rip up his current plans.

He remains convinced that, eventually, all three of his young forwards will come good. The clock is ticking, but the alarm is still to sound.

“I won’t give up on them,” said the boss. “Two of them are just 22, 23. I know it’s not just an age thing, but we’ve got to keep working on them. They will get better. They’re a certain age, although with a striker in particular, confidence is key.”

Almiron’s place is at most risk, with the Paraguayan now having almost a year of experience in English football under his belt. Joelinton and Saint-Maximin both arrived in the summer, and there are mitigating factors behind both players’ struggles.

Joelinton has struggled to settle on Tyneside, with Bruce conceding Newcastle officials might have to look at the Brazilian’s off-field situation and see if there is anything they can do to make him feel more comfortable. Saint-Maximin suffered a hamstring injury in his second Magpies outing at Tottenham and has only started four Premier League games.

It is far too early to make a definitive judgement on either, even if a lengthy period of acclimatisation is always a worry when, as a club, your preferred transfer policy is to recruit young players from overseas.

Bruce is having to deal with the fallout from decisions that were taken before he was appointed, but while he accepts there will be a point at which the time for excuses will have expired, he is adamant he has not reached that stage yet.

“It’s not a case of having had to be patient with the front three because they’ve not played together that much,” said the Magpies manager, who is set to replace suspended midfielder Sean Longstaff with Isaac Hayden this afternoon.

“Allan has only played a few games, and one of them was against Man United and another one was against Chelsea. Against them, you’re not going to be creating all that much.

“I can only change the system or personnel. It can’t continue on forever, but if you look at those three up top, then at the minute they’ve only played together three times.

“When we had decent possession last weekend (against Wolves), we were a threat with one or two opportunities to score and that is where we have to keep working.”

This afternoon, Newcastle will come up against West Ham striker Sebastian Haller, a forward that featured on the Magpies’ list of transfer targets for a number of years before joining the Hammers.

In the past, Newcastle have also made inquiries about Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, but in the end, they were priced out of the market for both players.

The days when the Magpies could compete for the best strikers in Europe are long gone, although every now and then, Bruce gets a reminder of more halcyon times.

“I was sitting on the loo last week, turning over the paper, and I saw Shearer and Ferdinand in Newcastle shirts,” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow! Wow!’ We had the best centre-forward in England, probably the best centre-forward that’s been English for a long, long time. Our two centre forwards were England’s centre forwards, but that’s gone in the past.

“We are where we are today, and we need to make the same big jump that a lot of teams are looking to achieve. Man United are seventh – they’ve only won three games.

“There are a lot of teams very close together, and we’re in amongst that pack. But can you get up to that next level? Can you go to be Leicester? That’s got to be the aim.”