Steve Bruce says Andy Carroll would have made a "world-class centre-half" after the striker helped Newcastle to a win over Sheffield United.
Carroll set up Jonjo Shelvey's VAR-awarded goal at Bramall Lane on Thursday night, but also played a part in the Magpies' defensive play at the set-piece in his first start of the season.
"Defensively he would have made an absolutely world-class centre-half back in my day because he just goes and heads it and has that ability," Bruce said. "When he is around your 18-yard box he just heads it clear.
"He can be hugely important. We've got to make sure we look after him.
"He was performing in training for the four or five weeks before he unfortunately nicked a little rib muscle which is always painful.
"When that was okay he was ready to go. I just thought on a night like this, against their three centre-backs and the physicality of Sheffield United he would cause them a problem."
Carroll was carrying an ankle injury when he moved to Newcastle in the summer, and Bruce says it's important that the 30-year-old is well looked after during a busy December schedule.
"He'll be a big asset to us if he stays well, and that is the big whole thing for me, my staff, my medical staff - to keep him right because if he is right he'll be a handful for anybody.
"He does have a presence and it lifts people. He has a physicality and presence about him and, of course, he is a very good player when he is right. So he gives everyone a lift when he's in and around the training ground and I'm delighted. He's waited a very long time for his start but this was the place for him and it turned out okay."
Along with the form of Carroll, Bruce will also be boosted by the imminent return of Dwight Gayle from a calf injury.
"He has been out on the grass for the best part of a month," Bruce said. "You can see him knocking on the door. He is not far short either. He is in my plans but the team is doing OK even though the top end is not scoring."