Steve Bruce says he is not ‘bullet-proof’ as he battles to halt Newcastle slump

Steve Bruce has admitted he is not immune from the sack as he fights to haul Newcastle out of Premier League trouble.

The Magpies have lost their last five league fixtures and not won in nine, and a paltry return of just two points from the last 27 on offer has left them just six clear of the bottom three with 18th-placed Fulham having played a game fewer.

Nevertheless, owner Mike Ashley is understood to remain firmly in Bruce’s corner, although the 60-year-old knows he cannot count on that support forever.

Asked if he is bullet-proof in his job ahead of Saturday’s trip to Everton, he replied: “I wouldn’t expect to be bullet-proof, no.”

Bruce’s side last tasted victory on December 12 when they beat lowly West Brom 2-1, a result which left them in 12th place, just three points shy of the top six with a game in hand and nine points clear of the drop zone.

They now sit in 16th, 14 points adrift of sixth place with bottom three Sheffield United, the Baggies and Fulham all having collected more points than they have during the intervening period.

Asked if he had received any assurances over his position, Bruce replied: “No, I don’t need any assurances. Look, we’re in the Premier League, we understand that we’re judged on results and our results haven’t been good enough at the minute.”

Newcastle’s slump has coincided with a Covid-19 outbreak which forced the club to close its training headquarters briefly at the end of November and which has cost them the services in particular of skipper Jamaal Lascelles and star man Allan Saint-Maximin, as well as coach Steve Agnew, for extended periods since.

Jamaal Lascelles file photo
Jamaal Lascelles file photo

Bruce, who this week drafted in former Bournemouth and Belgium coach Graeme Jones, said: “We’ve not been the same since we were struck down against Crystal Palace.

“I’m not using that as an excuse, but we’re getting our big players back fit again and when we’re all okay, I’ve seen what the players are capable of.

“We certainly have been affected by Covid. Injuries you accept, but Covid and the difficulties of dealing with it has been really, really difficult and we have been badly affected by it, and probably still are.

“We’ve still got one or two players, Allan, for example – we still can’t ask him to play 90 minutes tomorrow because he’s been idle for eight weeks.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been without our big players for too long.”

Bruce, meanwhile, confirmed his interest Leicester midfielder Hamza Choudhury, and admitted Matt Ritchie could be allowed to leave the club during what remains of the winter transfer window.