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Steve Bruce would not be surprised if Newcastle’s Premier League rivals had tried to block a takeover which would have massively boosted their spending power.
Daniel Jowell, the QC acting for Mike Ashley’s St James Holdings Ltd in its legal battle with the organising body, claimed at a Competition Appeal Tribunal hearing this week that “a number of major clubs that control or strongly influence the Premier League” had joined media group beIN in lobbying against the proposed sale to a consortium funded in large part by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Asked if that would surprise him, Magpies head coach Bruce said: “Would it surprise me? No. No, it wouldn’t surprise me.
“You wouldn’t want another big player on the patch, would you, so it wouldn’t surprise me, no.”
Bruce has spent his entire reign at St James’ Park, which currently amounts to a little more than 26 months, waiting for significant developments in the seemingly never-ending saga of Ashley’s attempts to sell the club.
Amanda Staveley’s consortium, which includes the Saudi PIF and the Reuben Brothers, formally withdrew its £300million-plus offer in July last year with the financier blaming the Premier League’s failure to either approve or block the takeover on rival clubs after a 17-week wait for an answer.
Fans desperate to see the back of Ashley, whose two-pronged legal action also includes an arbitrations case due to be heard in January next year, are as keen as the sportswear magnate to see the deal resurrected.
However, Bruce insists neither he nor the players can afford to be distracted by what is happening behind the scenes.
He said: “A lot of them have been here a long time and it’s been whirling around, so I think it becomes tedious, if that’s the right word.
“I don’t think so. All that stuff, they can’t control. What they can do is train well, play well, win on a Saturday. That’s what they’re paid for.
“They’re professionals, so that’s what they’ve got to really focus their attention on rather than anything else.”
This weekend, the only focus will be on Saturday’s trip to Wolves, where Newcastle will attempt to finally secure their first win of the season at the seventh attempt in all competitions, although discontent among the fanbase has not been reflected in the boardroom, where support for the head coach remains intact.
However, Bruce said: “I can’t take that for granted, that’s for sure. I’ll get on with the job as best I can. I think we’ve played well of late, so the performances have been decent.
“We’ve got to keep those levels and of course more importantly, win a match, win a couple of matches if we can and let the noise quieten down a bit.”