STEVE BRUCE insists Miguel Almiron remains an integral part of his plans for this season – and has suggested the Paraguayan could even play as a centre-forward in Newcastle’s current 4-4-2 formation.

Almiron was a surprise omission from Bruce’s starting line-up for the opening game of the Premier League season, with the Magpies manager instead pairing Callum Wilson and Andy Carroll in attack for the 2-0 win at West Ham.

The South American returned to starting line-up for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup victory over Blackburn Rovers, setting up Newcastle’s winner with a slide-rule through ball for Ryan Fraser.

He is expected to return to the substitutes’ bench for tomorrow’s league game with Brighton, but Bruce is confident he will play a prominent role as the season unfolds.

And while Almiron has spent most of his time playing in an attacking-midfield role as either a wide player or a ‘number ten’, Bruce sees no reason why he cannot play through the middle as an orthodox centre-forward.

“I think you all know what I think of Almiron,” said the Newcastle boss. “He’s a manager’s dream and a delight. He’d have been disappointed, for sure, but certainly the idea was to physically be ready for West Ham and when people were tired with 20, 25 minutes to go, then a lively Almiron could make a difference. He nearly scored and did what we all wanted him to do.

“He’s an important player for us, and he could be one of the two (in a 4-4-2), that’s for sure. He can play higher up the pitch - that’s what we did when we bought him.

“Probably, that’s his best position, although he can play in a number of positions.

“I’ve said many times what I think of the lad. I don’t think he missed much at all last year. But I picked a team against West Ham I knew had to be physically able to cope with them. That was the biggest thing against us, set-pieces and being able to cope with it.

“Physicality was certainly needed and Andy (Carroll) performed very well in pre-season. He trained every day, got a couple of goals, and we saw from his performance exactly what I was looking for.

“I had to make a big decision, but ultimately that is what you get paid for and what you get judged on.”

Even with Dwight Gayle set to miss the first half of the season through injury, Bruce still has an impressive array of attacking talent at his disposal.

Carroll is an old-fashioned throwback of a centre-forward, while Wilson is more of a classic ‘fox in the box’. Almiron can play as a number ten or a striker, while Allan Saint-Maximin’s pace and trickery mean he could also play as part of a front two if required.

Then, of course, there is also Joelinton, Newcastle’s club-record signing who is still to really find his feet following his £40m move from Hoffenheim. The Brazilian is likely to find his opportunities much more limited this season than was the case last term, although it is hoped he could still have a positive impact.

“The more options you’ve got at the top end of the pitch, the better,” said Bruce. “That’s one of the positions where we needed to improve.

“We needed to score more and create more, and that’s always the difficult part in the Premier League, so that was always in the back of our minds for what we were trying to achieve.

“With Andy, it’s just good to see him physically well, and he has worked extremely hard to get well. I was delighted with him the other day, he resembled a young Andy Carroll.

“Look, if he’s physically right then we all know what Andy can bring to the table. I hope he can stay well. He certainly deserves to, he’s worked tirelessly to be that. Let’s hope that continues.

“With Jo, then if we talk about pre-season, he missed a big chunk of it. I think it’s pretty evident that he was another one who needed a game.

“He can do as much running (as he wants), but it’s not quite like a match. He got 70 or 75 minutes under his belt (against Blackburn), and he needed it – I think that was pretty evident. I’m sure he will benefit from that.”

One of Bruce’s biggest dilemmas tomorrow will revolve around Fraser, who opened his account with a neat finish on Tuesday but could find himself back on the bench given Jeff Hendrick’s impressive display at the London Stadium.

“We saw flashes of the quality he’ll (Fraser) bring us,” said Bruce. “It was good he got through at least an hour the other night and got some minutes under his belt. He’s a naturally fit lad, so he’s in and around it. He can’t wait to get started, of course, so he will be involved at the weekend.”

Newcastle (probable, 4-4-2): Darlow; Manquillo, Fernandez, Lascelles, Lewis; Hendrick, Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin; Wilson, Carroll.