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Bruce confirms six players available for season run-in

Written by Dan King

Steve Bruce has confirmed that six players whose contracts or loan spells were due to expire at the end of the month have committed themselves to Newcastle United's season run-in.

Danny Rose, Nabil Bentaleb and Valentino Lazaro had been due to return to their parent clubs imminently while Andy Carroll, Matty Longstaff and Javier Manquillo's contracts at St. James' Park only had days left to run.

Ordinarily, of course, the campaign would have finished last month but due to the coronavirus outbreak, which saw the 2019/20 season suspended in March, clubs and players found themselves in unchartered territory with nine league games still to play. 

"We've had ongoing conversations with most of them now for the last few weeks," Bruce explained as he spoke to the media via video link on Friday, ahead of United's return to action this weekend. "We're all in this unprecedented area of what do we do; there's been a lot of dialogue with the Premier League, of course, and what we're going to do with out-of-contract players. 

"What they did is grant an extension until the end of the season and all our lads, including the loan players and the out-of-contract players, verbally agreed - and agreed - to stay on and play until the end of the season, which is obviously a good thing.

"With the players out of contract, the club are in discussions with them at the moment. There's been a lot talked about Matty Longstaff; we hope that we can resolve something. There's still dialogue between the respective parties."

Longstaff won't be involved against Sheffield United on Sunday as he has not trained in recent days due to injury, but Bruce believes he could still have an important part to play between now and the end of the season.

"I expect him to be part of it - unfortunately, after the first couple of days (back at training) he's picked up a niggle, a thigh injury," said Bruce. "We expect him to be in and around it in the next three, four days, hopefully, but we're certainly not going to rush him with a muscle injury like he's got, which is obviously a disappointment to him and to us at the minute.

"We hope he's going to be available for some part of next week - but certainly this weekend, he's not going to be."

Bruce - who also revealed that Longstaff's older brother, Sean, is likely to return to training next week but admitted he could be without Matt Ritchie and Dwight Gayle for Sunday's game - accepts that Sheffield United could have a slight advantage on his side after they played Aston Villa on Wednesday evening. 

"Maybe, maybe," he said. "They've had a game under their belt. 

"We have got an unbelievable challenge in front of us - everybody. To play Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday over a short period of time is very demanding on everybody concerned. But we're delighted we've got to this stage.

"The work behind the scenes that people have done is quite remarkable, really, and you have to congratulate everybody from the Premier League and a lot of people from our club and other clubs. To get to this stage has been quite remarkable."

The Blades' 0-0 draw with Villa saw them climb to sixth as Chris Wilder's men seek a strong finish to a fantastic first year back in the top flight following promotion from the Championship last term.

"It's absolutely astounding," said Bruce, who played for and managed the South Yorkshire club between 1998 and 1999. "They've got a wonderful spirit, there's been a core of them who have played at (Sheffield United) for the last two or three years, and you can't help but congratulate them. Even the other night, they should have won the game - the ridiculous situation of the goal not being awarded (after the ball had crossed the line).

"I've got nothing but the highest praise for Chris and what he's achieved. It's been quite remarkable and we couldn't have wished for a more difficult game as a first one up. But we beat them before at Bramall Lane - let's hope we can do it again in front of an unfortunately empty St. James' Park."

While supporters will not be able to attend Sunday's game, the match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.

For the latest coronavirus guidance, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.

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