JOE WILLOCK is approaching the final stages of his recovery from an Achilles injury – but Eddie Howe can offer no assurances about a comeback date for the Newcastle United midfielder.

Willock has been sidelined since suffering Achilles damage in mid-November, with the injury resulting in a long-term lay-off.

The midfielder also missed the first two-and-a-half months of the season with a serious hamstring issue, meaning his involvement during the current campaign has been restricted to just three starts and three substitute appearances in all competitions.

Newcastle have missed the 24-year-old’s energy and thrusting attacking runs, but he has been stepping up his training programme in the last couple of weeks and is beginning to close in on a first-team return.

However, while Howe is looking forward to welcoming him back into the fold, the nature of his injury means it is still extremely difficult to provide a firm return date.

Howe said: “It’s an Achilles tendon injury. His initial injury was a hamstring, and he recovered from that fine. Then he picked up the Achilles injury.


“Anyone who has had those injuries knows how difficult they can be to manage. The medical team have been building him up gradually. It’s a slow process to build him up to the point where the Achilles tendon can withstand the rigours of Premier League football.

“There is no certainty until he’s back that he will be back. So, fingers crossed he will. He’s in the last stages of his rehab and he’s working hard and doing well.”

The impact of Willock’s absence has been exacerbated by the long-term injury absence of Elliot Anderson and the suspension that has ruled Sandro Tonali out of the remainder of the season.

Joelinton has also joined the injury list in the last few weeks, further reducing Howe’s options at the heart of midfield, and while the head coach does not want to criticise the players that have been playing, he clearly feels the loss of so many key midfield performers has had a disruptive effect.

He said: “The injuries have brought inconsistency to our performances. We haven’t had the same fluency.

“I don’t want it to look like I’m criticising Bruno (Guimaraes), Sean (Longstaff) and Lewis (Miley), who have stepped up incredibly well.

“They are all having individually very good seasons. We have to focus on the players we do have to find ways to improve their performances to help the team.”