This is what Steve Bruce will tell Mike Ashley at Newcastle United transfer summit

Steve Bruce has again insisted that he’s not Mike Ashley’s “puppet” – as he plans for a meeting with Newcastle United’s owner.

Monday, 13th January 2020, 10:30 pm

And United’s head coach will stress the need for “one or two” signings in this month’s transfer window.

Bruce – who is grappling with a lengthy injury list ahead of the club’s third-round FA Cup replay against Rochdale at St James’s Park – will point to the impact signing Miguel Almiron had on the team in the second half of last season following his £21million move from Atlanta United.

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Asked what his message to Ashley would be, Bruce said: “It’ll be like what I’ve said from day one.

“He was very supportive in the summer. I won’t just bring in people who I don’t think can. We’re two or three weeks from having them all fit again. If there’s somebody who can improve us, then I will ask him the question.

“That’s always been the way I’ve tried to work. If you just try and bring in bodies, then it’s pointless.

“My pitch will be ‘if there’s somebody out there, will you try and help us?’. I’m not just going to say to him ‘we have to have X and Y’, and they’re not good enough.

Steve Bruce.

“And the problem we have at the minute is finding that one who is available, especially in January. For good players, it doesn’t happen very often that you let one out.”

On Almiron, Bruce added: “That's the type of signing we need. If there's another similar kid out there, let's see if we can get them."

The meeting on Tyneside, which was instigated by Ashley, is “encouraging”, according to Bruce, who hasn’t meet the billionaire since last summer.

“(He) just wanted to come in and see if he could give us a hand,” said Bruce. “It’s encouraging, and he’s been nothing but supportive.

Mike Ashley.

“I’ve just got on with my job, and tried to do the best I can and keep taking the club forward. We’ve seen little bits of quality in Almiron and (Allan) Saint-Maximin. Joe (Joelinton) is the one who hasn’t had the best of times, but you can see the potential there.

“It’s that bit of quality that we need and if we can get to the level of them ones – if we can get one or two – then let’s try.”

Rafa Benitez, Bruce’s predecessor, was involved in a number of well-publicised stand-offs with Ashley over transfers and a contract extension.

Bruce, however, says Ashley – who put the club up for sale in October 2017 but is yet to find a buyer – has been “nothing but supportive” since he took charge last July.

“In my time here, he has been nothing but supportive, like he was in the summer,” said Bruce, who could be without as many as many as nine players for the Rochdale game.

“He wants to try and help again. He wants to come and have a cup of tea with me, so fine.”

Bruce was unhappy at being labelled Ashley’s “puppet” by some fans following his appointment, which came amid a backlash from fans following the departure of Benitez, who guided the club to a 13th-placed finish in the Premier League last season.

United are 13th in the division – and five points above the relegation zone – following the weekend’s 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux.

Bruce believes that a “bit more quality” could take the club higher up the league.

“I certainly don’t want to be labelled that puppet thing again,” said Bruce. “For me, to take the club forward is all that I want to try and do. I’d rather sacrifice myself than take us down this road where (you say) ‘wow, we’ve got five or six injuries, we need five or six players’.

“We want a bit of quality to take this club forward. If that takes a bit of time, it’ll have to take a bit of time.

“You have to have a strong relationship with the owner or CEO, and it is very, very strong at the moment. I deal with Lee (Charnley, United’s managing director). He’s my point of contact, and we speak every day.

“I was aware of people’s thoughts (about being a puppet), but that will never be the case. I’ll never be anybody’s that. I want what’s best for the club. If we can get somebody better, then I will try and ask that question.”

The club, which spent more than £60million last summer and sold Ayoze Perez to Leicester City for £30million, has primarily been looking at the loan market.

RB Leipzig’s Ademola Lookman is one target. The winger joined the club last summer in a £22million move from Everton.

Newcastle passed on the chance to sign Everton striker Cenk Tosun, who last week joined Crystal Palace on loan. There was also interest in Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, but the striker is set to join Inter Milan, where a two-and-a-half-year deal is on the table.

Asked about loans, Bruce said: “You can have two in this country – and as many as you want from abroad. That’s an option we will try to explore, so we’ll see what happens.”