Ex-City defender happy to restart but concerned about fitness of his Newcastle players

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce during his team's 0-0 home draw with Norwich in February Picture: Paul Ch

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce during his team's 0-0 home draw with Norwich in February Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Former Norwich City defender Steve Bruce believes Premier League players will not be fit to resume the season until the end of June, worrying that an earlier start could see his Newcastle players “fall down like a pack of cards”.

Provisional plans for Project Restart were for a June 12 resumption, with clubs set to vote on Monday on plans for an initial return to training in small groups next week with strict hygiene protocols, amid continuing concerns about the health and safety of players.

Some reports have suggested a new start date of June 19 date is now likely, but Bruce - who scored 21 goals in 180 games for City between 1984 and 1987 - says that players will not be match fit until the end of the month, having been inactive since the middle of March.

“We’ve listened to what has been said and, with the precautions taken, we will get back to work and start phase one,” said the former Birmingham, Sunderland and Aston Villa boss. “Can we get to that stage where we can have all the players on the pitch together? We don’t know yet.

“Phase one will be mainly fitness work, four or five players on a pitch. Let’s see how we get on.

“You have to remember that they have had eight weeks off and that is probably the longest break some of these players have had in their careers.

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“If we were doing pre-season, we would have six weeks and probably have six friendly games to get them ready for the first league match.

“So, we need a good stretch of time here to get them ready. Certainly once we get into stage two, that is vitally important. We need enough preparation to get these players into shape or they are just going to fall down like a pack of cards.

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“Most of the managers have the same concerns. We would need at least six weeks. I don’t see how we can play games until the back end of June.”

MORE: Training protocols issued to City players as clubs prepare for team training

Bruce said that, providing all of his players and staff return negative coronavirus tests, Newcastle will start group training on Tuesday.

“Certainly, the measures being put in place, you’re probably more at risk going to the supermarket or putting petrol in your car,” he added, speaking to the Daily Telegraph. “We are in a fortunate position, we can get tested every three days.

“We will be tested on Sunday, every player and every member of staff. Once we get the results back, if everybody is OK, we are pencilled to start training again at 2pm on Tuesday afternoon.”

Newcastle sit 13th in the Premier League table, eight points clear of the relegation zone thanks to just two defeats in their last eight matches prior to football’s suspension due to the pandemic.

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