Bruce insists he’s nobody’s puppet ahead of Newcastle transfer talks with Ashley

Steve Bruce has insisted he is nobody’s puppet as he prepares to sit down with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and discover if he is prepared to sanction another £20million transfer swoop.

The Magpies head coach has revealed he is due to meet the Sports Direct magnate in the next couple of days and with almost half of the January transfer window having passed already, the strength or otherwise of his current squad is likely to be a significant topic of conversation.

Bruce replaced Rafael Benitez last summer after the Spaniard – who had a fractious relationship with Ashley – opted not to sign a contract extension, and his more cordial relationship with the sportswear tycoon has provided fuel for his critics.

However, he said: “I certainly don’t want to be labelled that puppet thing again. I was aware of people’s thoughts, but that will never be the case – I will never be anybody’s that.

“To take the club forward is all that I want to try to do. We want a bit of quality to take this club forward. If that takes a bit of time, it will have to take a bit of time.

“I want what’s best for the club. If we can get somebody better, then I will try to ask that question.”

Twelve months ago, Ashley bowed to Benitez’s appeals for assistance when he broke the club’s transfer record with a successful £21million bid for Paraguay international Miguel Almiron, and he smashed that new figure in July when he paid Hoffenheim £40million for striker Joelinton.

The Brazilian has struggled to find his feet in English football to date, although he could get another chance in Tuesday night’s FA Cup third-round replay against League One Rochdale.

By contrast, Almiron has now started to add goals to his energetic displays with three in his last six games, and that is exactly the kind of quality Bruce would hope to attract this month rather than simply bringing in bodies.

He said: “He’s a class act, a manager’s dream. He trains every day, comes in, smiles…he’s a very, very good player. He’s been terrific these past 12 months.

“OK, he could have scored more goals, but that’s the type of signing we need. If there’s another similar kid out there, let’s see if we can get them.”

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