Steve Bruce will go head-to-head with his Manager of the Year on Saturday ignoring the latest developments in Newcastle’s long-running takeover saga.
The Magpies’ head coach is focusing simply on the task of completing a double over this season’s Premier League surprise package when old foe David Moyes brings his team to St James’ Park.
He will do so at the end of a week which has seen his club catapulted into the headlines once again amid claims that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman asked Boris Johnson to intervene in the sale process, with Downing Street insisting the Prime Minister did not do so.
Asked how his week had been following Sunday’s priceless 2-1 victory at Burnley, Bruce said with a smile: “It’s been very quiet for a change – but then again, there’s a takeover on the horizon, isn’t there?”
Pressed on the takeover situation, he added: “I’ve got no opinion on it whatsoever. I don’t know enough about it, I don’t know where it sits, where it is. I’m really genuinely focused on how we go and get a result against West Ham.”
Newcastle beat the Hammers 2-0 a the London Stadium on the opening day of the season, but David Moyes’ side have prospered since and will arrive on Tyneside sitting fourth in the table ahead of Chelsea, champions Liverpool and Tottenham and targeting Champions League qualification.
That would be a remarkable achievement for a side which was fighting for top-flight survival towards the end of last season, and Bruce believes Moyes, whose January loan move for Jesse Lingard had proved a masterstroke, deserves huge credit.
He said: “For me, Moyesy is already the Manager of the Year no matter what happens. To keep them there or thereabouts in the top four and vying for Champions League places with six, seven games to go is a wonderful achievement by them all.
“They’ve had a great season, so it’s a big, difficult game ahead, of course.”
Bruce’s men will head into a testing fixture buoyed by a first win in eight games and just their third in 20 league outings, which lifted them six points clear of the drop zone, and by the return of both leading scorer Callum Wilson and livewire sidekick Allan Saint-Maximin from injury.
With Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester City to come in their next four games, chances to add to their points tally of 32 may be in short supply with the finishing line agonisingly close.
Bruce said: “For the last 10 years, it’s been around 35, 36 points, but it might be more this year. Who knows?”