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Steve Bruce decided to "match the mighty Rafa" with Newcastle finish

Sunday24 January 2021 | 3:20
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Steve Bruce has tried to match the “mighty” Rafael Benitez’s top-10 Premier League finish as he struggles to carry Newcastle out of trouble.

The Spaniard, who unwillingly left pain for many fans by leaving St James’ Park 18 months ago, ensured 10th place in his first season back in the top flight after winning promotion.

This campaign has observed

Bruce’

s team fall to the edges of the relegation with a nine-game winless run.

Bruce

, who is interested in adding Bournemouth coach, Graeme Jones to his staff, was asked if any manager could succeed under Mike Ashley’s ownership, he replied:

“I would ask the question what do you gauge as success? I gauge success last year as matching Rafa’s tally of points, of where we finished, because that’s where we are at this particular moment.

“Can we aim towards the top 10? We’re three, four points adrift of that. Would that be an achievement? In my eyes, probably yes.

2017-18 under Benitez - 10th, 44 pts

2018-19 under Benitez - 13th, 45 pts

2019-20 under Bruce - 13th, 44 pts

2020-21 under Bruce (18 games) - 15th, 19 pts

“Rafa, who I have obviously heard a lot of and have the hugest respect for, like all you have, where did he finish? He was a world-class manager. Where did he finish? Is that success?

“We matched the mighty Rafa last year. We will try to do the best we can again this year.”

Bruce

will get closer to his cause this weekend by the return of Allan Saint-Maximin from coronavirus lay-off.

The 23-year-old player is possibly the team’s fastest and most creative one and his absence was felt.

Bruce

added:

“It’s been really tough. The one thing Allan wants to do is run around and play football.

“That gives him joy and it was good to see him in the last week or so because he’s bounced around the training ground. He’s just delighted to be given the go-ahead, that he’s OK and thankfully this virus hasn’t scarred any of the organs which it attacked.

“Let’s hope he can come and give us a spark because certainly the team needs it and needs that bit of flair, style, arrogance, swagger and pace that we have been missing at the top end of the pitch.”

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