Steve Bruce lifts lid on concerning behind-the-scenes trend at Newcastle United
Bruce will be without three first-team players at Selhurst Park due to positive tests. Allan Saint-Maximin has also been left out of the squad.
United's head coach yesterday revealed that there had been a number of coronavirus cases at the club. Bruce, however, wouldn’t name the affected players and staff.
The small outbreak comes after the recent international break which saw a number of players leave the club’s training ground bubble to link up with their respective countries.
“We’re tested once a week now,” said Bruce, who has spoken about the decision to put the North East in the strictest of three post-lockdown tiers. “We wait from that period, and unfortunately this week, we’ve got three (that have tested positive).
"We have to manage that situation, and they are all self-isolating. It’s a difficult one, but we’re in a situation where up until the last few months, the Premier League has probably avoided it, which has been great.
"But, unfortunately at the minute, like all round the country, the numbers are rising.
"There’s a big jump, and it’s probably partly among the ones that have been on international duty and are coming back. We all have to manage it, and we just have to try to stay safe with it.”
On the issues thrown up by players going away on international duty, Bruce said: “It’s a frustration, but you can be a non-international and get it as well.
"This is the first time really when we’ve been a bit anxious because we’ve had three in a week in and around the training-ground bubble.
"That’s not great, but, then again, I’ve heard that Premier League teams have had something like 12 or so last week in the group. We’ll have to manage the group is respect of what it is, but it’s difficult.
“The protocols we’ve had in place for eight months or so now have been terrific, but, unfortunately, we have seen a rise in the last couple of weeks. Whether that’s just coincidental with the internationals and people being away, I don’t know.
"Or whether it’s just the peak of the virus? I feel like a scientist at the minute. Three in a week for us is the biggest we’ve had, but we’ve adhered to all the protocols and done all the right things. The affected individuals are self-isolating at the moment.”
Bruce was without assistant Steve Agnew for last weekend’s home game against Chelsea, which Newcastle lost 2-0. Head of coaching Ben Dawson instead joined him in the dugout.
One of those players who will miss tonight’s game would have started, according to Bruce.
“My job is to make sure the staff stay safe,” said Bruce, who has striker Callum Wilson back for the Palace game. “Unfortunately, it’s in my staff as well. We’re all going to have to manage it – it is what it is – but it’s another distraction.
"One player in particular would have played, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”