I've a bit of good-intentioned advice for Steve Bruce. Give Andy Carroll a right rollicking before Newcastle take on Crystal Palace.

No no, don't get me wrong. I'm not having a go at the big man. It's because he has broad shoulders and a stout heart and he can take it.

Let me explain. It happened to me when I was a No 9.

I was with Arsenal and we had hit a bit of a lean spell on scoring goals.

Don Howe came into the team meeting, pointed the finger directly at me, and started having a real go in front of all the other players. It was relatively constructive but it was arguable and I fully intended to say me piece. Apart from the fact I never got a chance.

Every time I piped up Howe told me to 'shut it' and kept going.

I looked round the room and could see that other players were embarrassed. They had been playing awful as well but I was the only one getting it in the neck.

When Howe finished I was seething. We were playing West Bromwich and I went out and scored a hat-trick. We won 3-0.

As I came off the pitch I walked through Howe and told him he could stick my hat-trick where the sun didn't shine!

"Aye, it worked didn't it?" he smiled.

Afterwards he sent for me to go into the manager's office and explained that he had picked on me because he knew I could take it. Others he knew couldn't and would have withered in the face of such a public attack but he also explained that they would feel guilty by association and respond in their own way.

He had to decide who could be a legitimate target, who would fight back and go out jut-jawed.

Carroll is the only one who wouldn't wilt in the Newcastle dressing-room which is why I think Bruce should target him. Perhaps the others feeling it was unjust would also respond. The crosses would become more frequent and more penetrating inviting a response from a big fella who can decimate a penalty area given the right service.

After watching Newcastle's inept performance at Burnley when they never even managed one effort on target I feel Bruce has to get tough with his players. He has to demand so much more, not be Mr Nice Guy, and I hope he has been that this week.

I would have been ashamed not to work the keeper even once in an hour and a half. Never mind how dour Burnley were - and they were - United were worse with no excuses.

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Yes, they missed the pace of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin out wide but surely the whole team cannot collapse because two forwards who aren't goalscorers are out.

As for Christian Atsu . . . well, if I have one bone to pick with Rafa Benitez it is how on earth he signed Atsu full-time after seeing him regularly while on loan.

United's defence has kept them alive this season not only by doing their own job but doing the forwards' job as well by scoring goals. When they had an off day at Turf Moor the team collapsed.

Well, it's about time the forwards bailed out their defenders starting with Crystal Palace.

My old mate Ray Lewington is Roy Hodgson's assistant. I made Ray my skipper at Fulham because he had great leadership qualities and it will be lovely to see him at SJP but, Christmas or not, I hope he returns to the smoke without a present!