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Geordie lads are at the core of Bruce's stability as he aims for higher ground


Newcastle's Andy Carroll. Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Newcastle's Andy Carroll. Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Getty Images

Newcastle's Andy Carroll. Photo: Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

They are the same core of players who returned Newcastle United to the Premier League three years ago, but rather than look to replace them, perhaps Steve Bruce's smartest move as Newcastle United manager was continuing to rely on them.

While much has been made of the impact new signings such as Miguel Almiron (who cost £21 million from Atlanta United in January 2019) and Allan Saint-Maximin (a £16 million steal from Nice last summer) have had this season, Bruce has not looked to change too much, too quickly.

When asked to reflect on why he had confounded his critics on Tyneside, many of whom could not understand why he was offered the chance to build on predecessor Rafael Benitez's work, he pointed to the fact he inherited a leadership group, led by 26-year-old captain Jamal Lascelles, who understood the club and the pressure that comes with wearing the black and white stripes in a football-obsessed city.

Benitez also valued their contributions, but had been looking to replace some, if not all, of them.

Tellingly, the likes of Matt Ritchie, Isaac Hayden, Dwight Gayle, Ciaran Clark (all signed by Benitez in the Championship) and Jonjo Shelvey, recruited the season before, were all heavily linked with moves away last season.

Bruce, though, spotted something too precious to discard.

"They've been here three or four years, for me they epitomise the club," Bruce explained, his reputation on Tyneside much enhanced after three wins and a draw in his past four league games.

"They know the club, what it's like. They know the demands of what it takes to play here at Newcastle. The club needs that nucleus. It is important you keep it.

"How often do you see a club that gets promoted from the Championship and, all of a sudden, the team that got you there are dismantled very, very quickly.

"You can get yourself in a mess. It's important with the core players here, that we tap into that experience. I think the key to it all now in modern management is to create a spirit and an atmosphere where they enjoy coming to work. Certainly, the team who got the club to the Premier League three years ago are still here, still playing and [are] rightly being rewarded with new contracts.

"I hope that continues because it's important to have a core group of players that the club means something to them. They want the best for the club, which is always good."

The fact that Newcastle also have four Geordies in and around the first team - Andy Carroll (pictured) and Paul Dummett, in addition to brothers Sean and Matty Longstaff - has also helped new arrivals understand what is expected from them.

Bruce, of course, is also from the north-east of England, but players such as Spanish full-back Javier Manquillo, Slovakian goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and United States international DeAndre Yedlin have also been on Tyneside long enough to have an affinity with the club, the people and the region.

Newcastle are hoping to sign two or three quality players in the next transfer window and with money in the bank before the Covid-19 pandemic, are in a stronger position than some. Bruce, though, wants to add to the squad, not overhaul it.

Having kept the team out of relegation danger in his first season - despite being among the favourites to go down - Bruce will now look to establish them as a top-10 side regardless of whether the club are sold to a Saudi Arabian-led consortium in the next few weeks.

"To mix with the elite is difficult these days," he added. "When you see the standard of play between Liverpool and Manchester City the other night . . . The elite are still a long way off, but we keep trying to bridge that gap. We have to take the club forward. With the signings of Almiron and Saint-Maximin - and we've seen the best of Joelinton over the last few weeks, [he is] more accomplished in a wide role - we have to keep adding that bit of quality. We have a really good nucleus of players. We have just got to keep adding one or two to it and see where it takes us."