Steve Bruce has admitted the buck stops with him as Newcastle attempt to scrap their way out of Premier League relegation trouble.
The Magpies embarked upon the campaign hoping to build upon last season’s 13th-place finish by aiming for the top half of the table, but they head into Friday’s clash with Aston Villa just a point above the drop zone.
Asked if he accepts responsibility for that, Bruce said: “Look, I’ve said it many, many times: the buck stops with me, I understand that totally.
“The top 10 (aim) was because we finished 13th and we would like to improve on what we accomplished last year.
“Certainly when I analyse the season – and now is not the particular time – but we were going along very, very nicely until Covid hit, and then the injuries to our big players has been a real, big problem to handle.
“That’s what it is, that’s what we’ve been dealt, I don’t think people want to use that as an excuse. At the end of the day, we’ve still got an opportunity to climb up the table and finish somewhere near where we finished last year.
“I think all of us would accept that and take it now. It’s not where we set out to be, but that’s the way it is at the minute.”
Victory over Villa, who will once again be without star man Jack Grealish, would ease Newcastle’s fears and pile the pressure on the clubs below them, but anything else would set fresh alarm bells ringing.
Bruce said: “We’ve understood that for a while now. If you’re in the bottom six or seven… Look, we’re not alone, I’m sure all the other managers will be getting asked the same question.
“We all don’t want to be down there, we simply haven’t won enough football matches not to be. It’s quite simple: we have to understand what’s before us and get enough points to make sure we stay here.”
Villa retained their top flight status at the end of last season by a single point as the Magpies finished comfortably in 13th place, but roles have been reversed this time around.
Newcastle’s cause has not been helped by injuries to key attacking trio Callum Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron and while all three will be missing for some time yet, head coach Bruce revealed they are making progress.
Asked about 10-goal leading scorer Wilson, he said: “He’s four weeks in, so we’re seeing him on the grass and he’s progressing – and that goes for Allan and Almiron as well.
“We’ve just got to let nature take its course. We hope by the end of the international break they’ll be there or thereabouts.”