Steve Bruce is feeling the pressure at Newcastle.
His team are just three points above the relegation zone, have won only two of their last 15 Premier League games, and he’s also been involved in a training ground argument with winger Matt Ritchie.
The story that broke the falling out also alleged that Bruce is losing the trust of some of the players and claimed that goalkeeper Karl Darlow found out from press reports that he was being dropped for the recent Wolves game, rather than from Bruce himself.
All of that led to Bruce fronting up to the media ahead of the game against West Brom – here’s the standout bits of what he had to say.
Bruce admitted that he had an altercation with Ritchie but insisted the story about Darlow and other details is false. He has banned the journalist who wrote the piece – Craig Hope of the Daily Mail – and claimed the paper have something against him personally.
“There is no denying I have had a row, an argument, whatever you want to call it, with Matt Ritchie. In my experience, 20 years of doing this job and 20 years as a player, it happens up and down the country in various training grounds,” Bruce said, quoted by the Telegraph.
“The reason [Hope] is banned, I think he has certainly got something personal against myself and that has been from day one. “[It started] against Arsenal with the first substitution I ever made. [He] went to Norwich and he said I couldn’t even take a warm-up. If I take you back 12 months, he tried to derail us ahead of a big game at West Brom inventing a story about Allan Saint-Maximin that I’d had a row with him.
“He gave away the team before we played Manchester United, when Matty Longstaff scored the winner. He gave the team to the opposition and he is supposed to be a fan. Then, of course, this one and the fallout from it.”
Other journalists and Newcastle fans appear to have largely taken Hope’s side.
Bruce said the claims in the Mail story about the way Darlow found out he wouldn’t be playing against Wolves are ‘totally disgusting’ and he would resign rather than conduct himself that way.
“The story surrounding Karl Darlow, that I would go to a journalist and give them an exclusive that he wouldn’t be playing at the weekend, I find totally disgusting,” he explained.
“If I thought I would do that, I would resign tomorrow. It’s simply not true, it’s unfair on Karl and arguably over the last 18 months that’s been the most difficult decision I’ve had to make. Yes, the story is right that I’ve had a row with a player, [but] the rest of it is totally, utterly nonsense.”
Bruce isn’t denying what happened with Ritchie but is still concerned about how it came out.
“Unfortunately it has to be [a leak], so that is the biggest disappointment to us all, and unfortunately it happens a bit too often. We’ll try our utmost to see who it is,” he said.
Newcastle was a dream job for Bruce, having grown up a Magpies fan but never getting the chance to play for or work at his boyhood club until 2019. He is therefore determined to make a success of it, despite the difficult circumstances, and won’t quit.
“Do I feel like walking away? Definitely not. Not at all,” he defiantly said.
“More than ever, I’m 100% committed to trying to get us out of the trouble we’re in. I think the players are too. I’ve got 100% faith in them, and I think that remains vital to us. So, no, just because things get tough [I won’t walk away].”