The 'big hole' at Newcastle United which has shaped Steve Bruce's summer
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Many fans had been hoping for a striker, cover is needed for Callum Wilson with Dwight Gayle sidelined, and a defender. So too had Steve Bruce, who thought he had a deal agreed with Arsenal for defender Rob Holding in the summer, only for Mikel Arteta to block a move.
United’s head coach was left looking at loans after a £35million spend on Wilson and Jamal Lewis. Free agents Ryan Fraser, Jeff Hendrick and Mark Gillespie also arrived at St James’s Park.
The club, according to Bruce, has been was left with a financial “big, huge hole”, running into tens of millions of pounds, by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Let's be fair, the club have got a hole – every club has,” said United’s head coach. "It's a big, huge hole.
"But, to get the business done early, then I have to say a big thank you to (managing director) Lee Charnley, who I work with daily and the owner (Mike Ashley), who sanctioned it.”
Bruce’s hand was strengthened this summer by his decision not to sign anyone on a permanent basis in January, when three players arrived on loan.
"We didn't sign it in January, because I wanted to keep it for the summer,” said Bruce. "So it helped. A manager always wants a new player in, but, I think, not spending in January certainly helped the situation.
"We managed to do three loans in January, and it helped us, but I wanted to keep the powder dry for the summer.”
Bruce last week said he was “relaxed” ahead of the first deadline, and it’s hard to see any incoming transfers ahead of the domestic deadline a week today.
What Bruce is looking for is more departures, which could strengthen his hand when it comes to January’s transfer window.
Christian Atsu, Henri Saivet, Rolando Aarons, Achraf Lazaar are among the players who don’t have a future at the club, but getting them out on loan hasn’t always been possible given their wages. DeAndre Yedlin also faces an uncertain future at the club.
Newcastle have a week to move some or all of them out and reduce the wage bill.
Bruce – who hopes Gayle will return from injury before the end of the year – seems already to be looking to the New Year, which is just over two and a half months away.
It’s a relatively short gap, and one which Bruce believes his tight-knit squad can bridge.
The October 16 domestic deadline does, at least, give Bruce a short window in case of an emergency, though defender Fabian Schar this week eased injury fears by captaining Switzerland four days after being forced off against Burnley with a shoulder injury.
Never say never, but Newcastle look done in terms of incomings ahead of next week’s deadline – and the focus will be on the exit door at St James’s Park.