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Steve Bruce insists player welfare must come first during current Covid-19 surge

The Magpies have been hit hard by coronavirus over the last month.

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Newcastle manager Steve Bruce says player welfare must come first during the ongoing battle against coronavirus (Owen Humphreys/PA Images).

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce says player welfare must come first during the ongoing battle against coronavirus (Owen Humphreys/PA Images).

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce says player welfare must come first during the ongoing battle against coronavirus (Owen Humphreys/PA Images).

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce has insisted players have to come first as the Premier League wrestles with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Magpies will head into the New Year still dealing with the after-effects of an outbreak which has left key players, including skipper Jamaal Lascelles and star man Allan Saint-Maximin, battling their way back from the virus.

Newcastle’s scheduled league trip to Aston Villa earlier this month was postponed as a result and Manchester City and Fulham have since had to call off fixtures following positive tests.

Bruce understands why there have been calls in some quarters for a circuit breaker.

We've got one or two players who are playing who are still not 100 per cent and I've got staff who have been really sick with it, so we have to have the welfare of the players firstSteve Bruce

He said: “I really, really hope that people can understand that when it strikes a footballer, yes, the vast majority of them it just washes over, but we’ve got one or two who are still struggling.

“We’ve got one or two players who are playing who are still not 100 per cent and I’ve got staff who have been really sick with it, so we have to have the welfare of the players first.

“If doctors or Public Health England think that’s (a circuit breaker) a good idea, then I’ll go with the advice.

“I understand that football gives everybody something to watch, but we have to think of the well-being of the players and the staff who, at this awful time, take the brunt.

“I am witness to it, of how quickly this thing can grab a hold of any environment the way it did with us.”

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Steve Bruce is hoping Newcastle can agree a new deal with Ciaran Clark, pictured (left) battling for possession with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane.

Steve Bruce is hoping Newcastle can agree a new deal with Ciaran Clark, pictured (left) battling for possession with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane.

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Steve Bruce is hoping Newcastle can agree a new deal with Ciaran Clark, pictured (left) battling for possession with Liverpool’s Sadio Mane.

Newcastle, who host in-form Leicester on Sunday, have been hit hard by the virus with midfielder Isaac Hayden and defenders Federico Fernandez and Emil Krafth among those who also tested positive.

Republic of Ireland international Ciaran Clark, who had not played a league game since February since suffering an ankle injury at Arsenal, was asked to step into the breach at the back and has performed so well since that he is in talks over a new contract.

Asked about Clark following his fine display in Wednesday night’s 0-0 draw with champions Liverpool, Bruce said: “Ciaran is a really, really good player who gives you a nice balance with his left foot and is fiercely competitive.

“I remember the tackle he went into when he knew he was going to get hurt at Arsenal, but he went in for the sake of the team.

“He’s a very, very good player. I know discussions are ongoing with his agent and I hope in January we can tie Ciaran up because I would like to keep him at the club. I think he deserves that.”

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