boss Steve Bruce says striker Andy Carroll was “desperate” to return to the club where he began his career.

Carroll, 30, re-signed for the Magpies on transfer deadline day despite being sidelined after ankle surgery.

The Englishman, who was released by United at the end of last season, left for for £35m in January 2011.

“If he stays fit, then a fit Andy Carroll is as good as you’re going to get,” said Bruce.

Bruce, who grew up near and supported the club as a boy, took over as manager at St James’ Park in July.

He said: “He [Carroll] was desperate – a bit like myself, I suppose – to come back.”

“Of course, the big question mark is can we get him back quickly and can he stay fit?

“He’s not young Andy Carroll any more, he’s at that veteran stage. But when the club sold him for a record fee, he was the best pound-for-pound centre-forward there was in the country.”

The Magpies manager has also described former Nice winger Allan Saint-Maximin as “eccentric”, adding: “I think I’m going to have a bit of fun and games with him. He’s not your normal one.

“He’s eccentric off the pitch and a little bit like it on it too. There are times where I wonder if he knows what he’s doing, but he’s got that natural flair that gets you off your seat.”

open their campaign at home to on Sunday (14:00 BST).

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