‘Buzzing to be here’: Joe Willock seals £22m Newcastle move from Arsenal

Newcastle’s new £22m midfielder Joe Willock is unable to face West Ham at St James’ Park on Sunday after failing to complete the formalities of his move from Arsenal in time.

Steve Bruce had hoped to have Willock on the bench against David Moyes’s side but Newcastle missed the Premier League’s 12pm registration deadline on Friday. Willock’s fee could rise to £25m with add-ons.

The 21-year-old, who scored eight goals for Newcastle during a loan last spring, is nonetheless delighted to have returned to Tyneside following several days of protracted negotiation over personal terms after a fee was agreed with Arsenal last Sunday.

“I’m buzzing to be here,” he said. “I loved my time here last season and I’m really happy to be back as a Newcastle United player. Leaving Arsenal is obviously a big step but this is the right move to the right club at the right time for me.

“I only got one chance to play in front of a small number of Newcastle fans as a home player last season so I can’t wait to step out in front of a packed St James’ Park and sample that atmosphere.”

Bruce had devoted much of the summer to the pursuit of Willock and was suitably delighted by his arrival. “We’ve had to be patient and persistent but it’s been worth the wait to bring our No 1 target back here,” he said

After an even longer wait, Freddie Woodman will finally make his Premier League debut for Newcastle on Sunday. The 24-year-old goalkeeper, and godson of the England manager Gareth Southgate, has spent the past two seasons on loan at Swansea but with Newcastle’s first-choice keeper, Martin Dubravka, out with a foot injury and his deputy, Karl Darlow, struggling to recover from Covid, Bruce has confirmed Woodman will start.

“Freddie gets his chance,” said Newcastle’s manager, who revealed Darlow had endured significant weight loss after recently spending five nights in hospital. “Freddie’s waited patiently and it’s a big opportunity for him.”

Woodman had been poised to join Bournemouth on another loan when Darlow was admitted to hospital.