STEVE BRUCE has pinned his hopes on the returning Allan Saint-Maximin to bring Newcastle some much-needed “swagger and arrogance”.
But the Toon boss accepts they are “shooting in the dark”, with the French flyer having missed the last two months battling Covid.
Steve Bruce hopes Allan Saint-Maximin can reinvigorate his Newcastle sideCredit: Reuters
Saint-Maximin is back for the trip to Aston Villa and will likely be used as an impact sub.
Having not played since November 21, Bruce said: “The one thing Allan wants to do is run around and play football.
“That gives him joy and it was good to see him in the last week or so because he’s bounced around the training ground.
“He’s just delighted to be given the go-ahead and thankfully the virus hasn’t scarred any of the organs which it attacked.
“Let’s hope he can come and give us a spark because certainly the team needs it and needs that bit of flair, style, arrogance, swagger and pace we’ve been missing.
“Let’s hope he gives it straight away again, but we are shooting in the dark a bit.”
Underfire Bruce is in talks with Bournemouth coach Grame Jones as he looks to shake up his backroom team.
Born in Gateshead, Jones was Roberto Martinez’s assistant with Belgium before landing the manager’s gig at Luton in 2019.
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Jones was sacked last April with the Hatters second from bottom in the Championship and has since been working under Cherries boss Jason Tindall.
Without a win in nine all competitions, the Toon Army fear a third relegation under owner Mike Ashley.
The worshipped Rafa Benitez brought them up from the Championship last time before finishing 10th and 13th.
And Bruce matched “the mighty Rafa” by claiming 13th.
The Geordie added: “I gauge success last year as matching Rafa’s points tally, of where we finished, because that’s where we are.
“Rafa is a world-class manager. Where did he finish? Is that success? We matched the mighty Rafa last year.
“We are in the bottom half and have been for the best part of 15 years.
“We are where we are and I will keep edging us towards where I want to take us.”
I’m quietly confident that we will stay up.”
Bottom of the Prem’s “last six” form table and with just one goal in seven, the Magpies are desperate for a win at Villa.
Perched a perilous seven points above the drop, debate has raged on Tyneside as to whether the players are good enough to avoid the drop.
But, in Brucey’s eyes, there is no doubt about it.
He said: “I’m quietly confident that we will stay up.
“We did it quite comfortably last year, so we know that the players are capable.
“Then I look above us and there are three or four teams three points away from us that are a win away from mid-table.
“Would that be an achievement? In my eyes, probably yes.
“We’ve had huge problems in terms of illness and injuries, and I haven’t been able to pick my best XI all season.”
Bruce has concerns at centre-back on Saturday with both Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez struggling, though he hopes Fabian Schar will be available.