Steve Bruce

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Carroll, teammates paid for Newcastle kit man’s new hip

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George Ramshaw has been Newcastle United’s kit man for 25 years and has seen the club yo-yo between the Premier League and EFL Championship on more than one occasion; he’s something of an institution at the Tyneside club.

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So, when Ramshaw, who is in his 70s, needed an operation and a new hip, it was Andy Carroll, who joined the Newcastle academy when he was a boy, who started a group-funding campaign inside the Magpies locker room to get Ramshaw the help he needed — quotes from the Guardian:

“I’m eternally grateful to the players. I was in a lot of pain with my hip and it would have been months before I could get an operation through the [National Health Service] given how busy they are.

“The players said, ‘Can we do something?’ to our club doctor, Paul Catterson. Within a fortnight, I was in and had it done. All the lads came together and put in. Me and my wife are both very grateful.

“I’m feeling great now. I was off for about four months but I’m back full-time now — or, at least when the training ground reopens.”

Manager Steve Bruce, another figure who was a boyhood fan of the club, revealed that Carroll set the plan in motion to come up with $17,500 for Ramshaw’s operation.

“It was a lovely touch. Footballers get much maligned these days but they sent him off to get it done privately. I think it might have been Andy Carroll’s initial idea. Andy, of course, has known George for a long time.

“He’d only just come back to work in the past couple of weeks and he’s all fixed and healed. It seems to have been a big success. We were all thrilled to see him back because George is a lovely, lovely man. He’s as good as gold now. Before we closed down he was jumping around the place. I thought he’d be playing soon.”

Newcastle spent four weeks preparing for ‘inevitable’ stoppage

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Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce has revealed that those in charge of the club have been planning for an “inevitable” stoppage of fixtures “for the past four weeks,” just hours after the Premier League announced it will suspend play until at least April 3 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

[ MORE: Nigel Pearson slams government’s “lack of leadership” on coronavirus ]

Magpies players have been given individual training programs to perform during a two-week shutdown of the club’s training facilities. Bruce, speaking on behalf of his entire coaching staff, is thankful that the PL came to the correct decision after a period of uncertainty — quotes from the Guardian:

“We’ve been talking about what would happen if everything was suspended for the past four weeks now. I don’t think there’s any alternative. My staff and I were sitting watching the TV yesterday and the news [games were then going ahead] came through from the prime minister, and we all thought: ‘Okay.’

“We were saying, ‘Well, what happens if one of the players or a manager gets it?’ And then lo and behold, Mikel Arteta did. It was inevitable, wasn’t it?”

“The plan is for the players to go away with their own individual programs. We’ve set the personal plans in place and they’re ready to go. It’s to take them away from here, because we’re on top of each other. There’s 70 or 80 of us in a confined space, so if someone got infected and then came back here that clearly would be an issue — and coronavirus is so contagious.”

[ MORE: Klopp on PL suspension: “We must protect one another” ]

While Bruce doesn’t yet know whether or not his players will be permitted to leave their homes in the UK should the hail from a foreign nation, he does know one thing with absolute certainty: it was always going to be all or nothing with regards to playing games in front of packed stadiums, or not playing them at all.

“I’ll have a chat with our doctor. Whether you stay here or go abroad, you run a risk of contracting it. I’ll be guided by the individual medical advice.”

“You play football to be in front of fans. There would have been 52,000 at St James’ Park for Sheffield United on Saturday, and the game is all about those supporters. The idea of playing in front of nobody doesn’t appeal at all. For me, you’ve got to suspend it and wait until you get the all clear.

“Thousands could die from this disease. People’s welfare is more important than a football match, a season or a tournament.

Almiron salutes injured ex-Atlanta United teammate as Bruce praises star

Miguel Almiron
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Newcastle United got a big performance out of Miguel Almiron in the No. 10 role, and the Paraguayan used his star show to pay tribute to Josef Martinez.

Almiron and Martinez famously celebrated goals at Atlanta United by combining to make a heart with their arms, and Martinez has been linked with Newcastle in recent transfer windows.

Martinez tore his ACL this week, and Almiron celebrated one of his two goals in a 3-2 defeat of West Brom in the FA Cup by forming half of a heart from an ocean away.

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That part of the performance was lovely for MLS and Atlanta fans, but what Newcastle United fans and manager Steve Bruce love is Almiron’s promising performances now seeing end product.

“As I have said many times he has been a breath of fresh air,” Bruce said, via The Chronicle. “That little bit of confidence will hopefully do him the world of good.”

Almiron was a sparkplug last season for Rafa Benitez, but failed to get a goal or assist in 10 outings. This season, he waited 14 league matches for an assist and three more for a goal.

The FA Cup has helped him grow, as Almiron has added four goals to give him six in all competitions.

“He looked a top, top player tonight and we all know he can score,” Bruce said. “He just missed a few chances and then it ebbs away at you. One thing you can’t deny is the kid is a good player.”

Almiron still needs to produce more against PL competition, but his numbers are promising. He’s second on Newcastle with 43 tackles, and his 40 successful dribbles trail only wizard Allan Saint-Maximin (Stats via SofaScore).

It seems Almiron is ready for a breakthrough in league play, though the Magpies still badly need an engine in the midfield and a shuttler who sets up the playmakers. Steve Bruce has changed the club’s defensive formation to something more open, so this will be a good few weeks to track Almiron’s progress.

Handshake bans as coronavirus precautions hit soccer

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The threat of coronavirus has already led to Europa League games being played behind closed doors, games in Serie A being postponed and now clubs across Europe are telling their staff to not shake hands as the virus continues to spread.

Premier League clubs are taking extra precautions as both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have asked visitors to their training grounds to fill in a health form when they arrive, Bayern Munich have told players not to sign autographs for fans or take selfies for them, while games across Europe have been impacted as Switzerland have banned all games until mid-March and five Serie A games will be played in empty stadiums.

Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son will self-isolate after he returns from surgery in his homeland of South Korea and doubts are emerging about whether international games will go ahead in March.

As for the PL, Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce explained to reporters that staff and players will no longer be encouraged to shake hands when they arrive each day around their training ground.

“There’s a ritual here that everybody shakes hands as soon as we see each other every morning – we’ve stopped that on the advice of the doctor,” Bruce confirmed. “Thankfully, we’ve got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do. We’re like everybody else, we’re glued to the TV for where it’s going to go next and let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse in this country.”

Bruce was asked if he remembered any precautions like this is in the past.

“No, not at all. Look, in confined areas like we’ve got here… There was a time over Christmas when if there’s a virus knocking around – which is not coronavirus – then you have to be careful so we’re a bit mindful of it, the fact that a bug can sweep through. We had four or five at Christmas and two of my staff, so you stay at home, basically. But it’s always something you’re looking at,” Bruce added.

West Ham’s manager David Moyes has revealed that West Ham have a similar plan in place, with fist bumps allowed but no handshakes and every Hammers player has been given some hand gel to use.

“After consulting with the medical team, we have supplied all the players with hand gel to keep with them,” Moyes said. “We’ve also agreed to no shaking hands at the moment, just fist bumps. If we score tomorrow, of course they’ll be able to celebrate.” 

PL Sunday preview: Aston Villa host Spurs; Newcastle travel to Arsenal

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures promise to have a wide-range of action, as a pair of top-six sides host a pair of bottom dwellers.

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Aston Villa vs. Tottenham  — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

There’s a strong sense at Tottenham that Spurs can finish top four in Jose Mourinho’s first go around, especially on a two-game winning streak heading into Sunday.

Spurs trail the surprise of the season Sheffield United by two points, meaning that a win at Villa Park can propel the London club back into the European mix. Having won their last five away trips in Aston with a combined score of 14-1, there is little evidence to question why Spurs would be unable to leave Birmingham with three points.

“We had a good week,” Mourinho said. “Three very good training sessions. Of course I told you if we didn’t play against Southampton [in an FA Cup replay] I would give the players some time but we would be back early.

“Because of the Southampton game we had less time for training but we had three very good days. We went through different aspects of our game to improve.”

Following a week with only practice activity, Villa take on, perhaps, the most important stretch of games since the second half of their disastrous 2015-2016 Premier League season – their last before the drop to the Championship.

According to manager Dean Smith, his staff and players are up for the battle that is avoiding relegation. Villa are only one spot to the right of the red, dotted line, making every game from here on out crucial for the Midlands club.

“As everybody knows, we had a big turnaround [of players] in the summer and they’re starting to gel,” he said. “For the first time we’ve had a mini break and we’ve seen a positive side to it. It gave everybody a chance to have some time away from the place, and to clear their heads.”

INJURIES: Aston Villa — OUT: Davis (thigh), McGinn (ankle), Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Steer (foot) | Tottenham — OUT: Kane (thigh), Sissoko (knee)

Arsenal vs. Newcastle — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

With five draws in seven matches, a week-long camp in Dubai, Arsenal and Mikel Arteta are returning to the Emirates with the obligation to win.

Arsenal are projected, for the first time in 25 years, to finish outside of the top six. Of course, a lot of that falls on ex-manager Unai Emerey, but Arteta, 37, has yet to demonstrate the edge many believes he has on other up-and-coming teachers of the game.

The Spaniard will need time – lots of it and financial backing – but the fact that Arsenal are level with Newcastle with 31 points after 25 bouts doesn’t help Sunday’s scenario. Three points, and a well-executed defensive plan against the Magpies, however, may put out many long-burning fires for all thhose involved with Arsenal.

“I think we have to generate some defensive stability, but not by defending deep,” Arteta said. “I don’t like that. It’s by defending high and pressing the opponent as much as possible. But the process – together as many times as possible in the most efficient way – has to be done properly from here.

As expected, Steve Bruce and company are delighted to be in the position that they’re in, considering that a few weeks into the season it felt that St. James’ Park’s walls were collapsing.

“We’ve got 13 games to go and have got ourselves in a decent position,” he said. “It gives us the platform to have a decent season. I think we’ve done okay. We’ve had huge problems over six weeks and fair play to the squad for showing that resilience.”

INJURIES: Arsenal — Marí (match fitness), Soares (knee), Tierney (shoulder), Chambers (knee) | Newcastle  OUT: Shelvey (thigh), Manquillo (thigh), Carroll (groin), Krafth (ankle), Dummett (thigh), Willems (knee), Colback (knee)