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Steve Bruce has blamed a coronavirus outbreak at Newcastle United’s training ground in December for derailing the team and increasingly putting them in danger of relegation.
Since the virus swept through the club, sidelining key players including Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles for several weeks, Newcastle have struggled. They prepare for Friday night’s game against Aston Villa at St James’ Park having won only two of their last 18 games in all competitions.
That run has seen Newcastle drop to 16th, a point ahead of Brighton – whom they visit next Saturday – and a resurgent Fulham. Their problems have also been exacerbated by the groin, hamstring and knee injuries which will sideline Saint-Maximin, Callum Wilson and Miguel Almirón until just after the international break at the very earliest.
“We were doing very, very nicely until Covid,” said Bruce. “But it became a real big problem and now we are without three big players who we’ve spent a lot of money on.”
Quite apart from being worth the best part of a combined £60m, Wilson, Almirón and Saint-Maximin are Bruce’s brightest attacking talents and his only consolation on Friday night will be that Villa are still without their own creative talisman, Jack Grealish.
Even without Grealish, Dean Smith’s ninth-placed visitors are a team transformed from the days when Bruce was in charge at Villa Park and Newcastle’s increasingly under-pressure manager could desperately do with his former employers having an off-night on Tyneside.
“There’s no doubt that Fulham have had a wonderful couple of weeks,” said Bruce. “But there are 11 games left, there’s a lot to play for and all the bottom six or seven teams are looking over their shoulders. There’s a long way to go but as I’ve said many, many, times, the buck stops with me. I will try everything I possibly can, with all the experience I’ve got, to make sure we stay here [in the Premier League].”
Given that it was five years to the day that Rafael Benítez replaced Steve McClaren at St James’ Park, Bruce was asked if he expected to be sacked should results fail to improve. “I think I’m the wrong one to answer that,” he said. “I’m just focusing on tomorrow night; can we win? Then we’ve got a huge game against Brighton. We’re capable of winning the pair of them.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Steve Bruce blames club’s coronavirus outbreak for Newcastle’s poor form | Newcastle United