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Steve Bruce is hoping he gets the chance to take Newcastle to the next level after winning a gruelling battle for Premier League safety.
The 60-year-old head coach has faced a torrent of criticism from the Magpies’ own supporters over the course of an intensely difficult campaign, during which relegation became a distinct possibility until a run of form capped by last Friday night’s 4-2 win at Leicester effectively eased them across the finishing line.
The personal nature of some of the attacks, coupled with uncertainty over the club’s ownership with an exhausting takeover saga rumbling on, have led to speculation that he might not be around by the start of the new season, although he insists he fully intends to be.
Bruce said: “Look, I hope so. I’ve got a contract and until I hear otherwise, I’m going to crack on.
“I’m a football manager. It’s what I do and I’m not ready to retire yet, so you have to dust yourself down, have thick skin at times.
“As I said, I’m nowhere near ready to retire just yet, so I’ll crack on to the best of my ability.”
Just hours after safety had been confirmed by Fulham’s relegation, Bruce found himself in the firing line once again when he referred to the “expectation” of the club’s fans during a radio interview, prompting an angry response from some who believed he meant their aspirations for the club were unreasonable.
However, speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of Friday night’s home clash with newly-crowned champions Manchester City, he blamed his “lack of vocabulary” for any misunderstanding and added: “No, it’s not what I meant at all.
“Look, we’re Newcastle, and all of us – the supporters, myself, the team, everybody wants to see the club progress and try to edge towards being in the top half of the division – and when everybody is fit and we’re right, we’re not far short.
“We’ve still got a bit to do, don’t get me wrong, and it’s only little pieces at a time. But we’ve got the makings, especially in the top half of the pitch, of a very decent team when everybody is fit.”
In the meantime, Bruce will concentrate on the task of trying to get the better of the man he believes is the best manager in the world, City’s Pep Guardiola.
He said: “You can’t speak highly enough of the fella. He always has this unbelievable insatiable appetite to succeed – a little bit like my old boss, Sir Alex (Ferguson).
“It’s never enough to just win it. As soon as he wins it, it’s on to the next one.”