Christmas Carroll can be Newcastle inspiration, says Bruce

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(Reuters) - Newcastle United will assess striker Andy Carroll’s fitness before deciding if he can face Manchester United on Thursday but his return from injury has already lifted spirits in the squad, manager Steve Bruce said on Monday.

Carroll was limited to making cameos in the Premier League earlier this season but he completed 90 minutes in his last two games to prove his fitness after suffering ankle and groin injuries.

However, Bruce is not sure if the 30-year-old will be fit enough to play at Old Trafford and at home to Everton two days later.

“He wants to play every week but I’ll have a conversation with him,” Bruce told reporters. “It would be unrealistic to think he could play two games in 48 hours but knowing how he is, he’ll want to. His impact has been huge.

“I said a couple of months ago that once he starts training he’ll give a lift to everyone. He’s not young Andy Carroll anymore, people are looking to him as an example... The more he plays, the more mobile he is and the better he’ll get.

“He epitomises what it means to play for Newcastle. He’ll not shirk anything and he leads from the front. If he stays well -- and thankfully with the training regime we’ve got he looks good -- he’ll be great for us.”

Carroll’s return could be a boost for ninth-placed Newcastle who have scored only 18 goals in 18 matches as Brazilian forward Joelinton has struggled.

The club record signing, bought for about 40 million pounds (40.10 million pounds) in the close season from Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, has scored only one goal in 18 league appearances.

“He’s come as a big signing and with the Newcastle number nine shirt,” Bruce added. “At the minute he’s a little bit short on confidence. We know there’s a good player in there. It’s taken him a little bit of time but I’m convinced he’ll be OK.”

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond