Steve Bruce may be about to give anonymous Newcastle chiefs what they want or what they hate

By Ciaran Kelly

Steve Bruce was, naturally, downbeat the last time the Newcastle United head coach faced the press.

It was around 5.10pm on Saturday, August 28. Bruce had just witnessed his side concede a 96th-minute penalty against Southampton and throw away two points on a day that a section of supporters turned on him at St James' Park.

If that was not bad enough, Bruce was nowhere near as hopeful about making a new signing as he had been on the eve of the game.

READ MORE: Manchester United may get reminder of £50m transfer target

When asked if he expected deals to go down to the wire, following that 2-2 draw, a drained Bruce simply muttered: "No."

A lot has happened since that post-match press conference at St James' Park, which makes Friday's media briefing a little more interesting than usual.

Yes, Bruce will be asked about the following: the Paraguayan FA's attempts to get FIFA to ban Miguel Almiron for the Manchester United game after the midfielder was not released for international duty; the fitness of Callum Wilson, Jonjo Shelvey and Karl Darlow; how serious Ryan Fraser's injury is after he was spotted in a protective boot; and the small matter of potentially facing Cristiano Ronaldo.

What will be most intriguing, however, is the moment when Bruce is inevitably quizzed about the fallout from the final days of the transfer window.

The Newcastle head coach had hoped to bring in Leicester City midfielder Hamza Choudhury on loan but, by 10.50am on transfer deadline day, the club had briefed that business was done.

Newcastle, as a result, ended the window with just one signing, Joe Willock, and, arguably, a weaker squad to boot after Andy Carroll left the club and Matty Longstaff was allowed to join Aberdeen on loan.

Bruce was left frustrated but Newcastle made the point of issuing a pointed statement just a few days later which, for once, was not related to the club's legal dispute with the Premier League.

"Internally, all parties have long been aware of the budgetary parameters under which we are operating," an excerpt read.

"Ahead of the summer transfer window and having made a significant impact after arriving on loan in January 2021, Joe Willock was identified as the club’s primary target.

"Once it was confirmed that the player would be available on a permanent deal, a collaborative decision was taken to pursue this option.

"All parties were aware as to the implications for further squad consolidation, with the collective view being that securing Joe Willock was the right priority.

"There was a shared understanding that further additions to the playing squad would be heavily influenced by player trading, both in terms of available funds and space in the squad."

Bruce was not referenced directly - then again, no club employee bothered to even put their name to this statement - but the hierarchy were clearly irked by the notion that the 60-year-old had been wronged.

However, even with a lack of interest in Newcastle's fringe players, fans can justifiably wonder why the club could not stretch to a measly loan signing.

Henri Saivet, Yoshinori Muto, Florian Lejeune and Christian Atsu all came off the wage bill this summer and while the academy may be a different set-up altogether, the club were also willing to invest the time, money, and resources into signing Santiago Munoz on a temporary basis.

Yet, for all his private frustrations, it would be a surprise if Bruce vented in full view of the press on Friday morning - 10 days after the transfer window closed.

Bruce, after all, went into this job with his eyes wide open in 2019 and a host of figures who had worked under Mike Ashley or witnessed the inner workings of the regime first-hand warned him about the pitfalls involved.

In saying that, Bruce's friend, Simon Jordan, was among those who told the Newcastle boss not to brief against Ashley in the hope that 'maybe you'll get more from him than other people have got'.

Jordan, for all his flaws, had a point. Newcastle changed transfer policy last summer on Bruce's instruction to sign players with proven Premier League experience and the club even agreed to pay Willock's transfer fee in instalments last month to ensure the midfielder joined on a permanent basis.

In turn, no Newcastle manager has spoken more glowingly about his employers in the Ashley era, whether it was Bruce highlighting how the Newcastle owner 'flexed his muscles' to sign Callum Wilson last summer or his tribute to Lee Charnley 'for the work he has put in' to allow Willock to come in on a permanent basis.

Bruce, as the only club spokesman who is ever wheeled out, has also been brutally honest about the financial picture during the pandemic.

So his response to that inevitable question on Friday morning will be telling. Does Bruce look to play the events of the last week-and-a-half down? Does he take the route of his predecessor and make his true feelings clear, which always irritated the hierarcy? Or might it even be a combination of both?

We'll soon find out.

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