Steve Bruce expects his Newcastle United players will have “no time” for a Christmas party and believes the days when teams regularly flew to so-called “party capitals” such as Amsterdam and Dublin for festive celebrations are over.
Last December Newcastle’s squad cancelled plans to stage what was once a traditional night out, after taking a heavy hint from their then manager, Rafael Benítez, and it seems a precedent has been set.
“We’re not banning anything but I don’t think there will be time for a Christmas party,” said Bruce before Saturday lunchtime’s home game against Manchester City.
“We’re very fortunate in what we do but Christmas is a time when we have to be at work. When everyone else is enjoying themselves we’ll be here but, hopefully, there’ll be time in January when we can all have a do together.”
Bruce’s intention to be present marks a departure from the past when managers routinely stayed away from Christmas festivities, turning blind eyes as players let their hair down and, sometimes, behaved badly. “Those days are gone,” said Bruce, who is likely to keep faith with his goal-shy front three of Joelinton, Miguel Almirón and Allan Saint-Maximin against City. “With the games coming up I don’t think there’ll be any Christmas parties in the Premier League. We’ve got seven games in 30 days or so. December’s nonstop.”
With their attacking trident having scored one goal – Joelinton’s winner at Tottenham in August – during a collective 57 hours since joining the club, Newcastle’s hopes of reprising last January’s 2-1 win against Pep Guardiola’s side at St James’ Park appear slim. Their cause is further hampered by Matt Ritchie, usually one of the team’s principal goal creators, having had a second ankle operation of the season.
The influential winger or wing-back is not expected to play again until late January after further surgery to repair the damage inflicted during a challenge by Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury in August. At the time, Bruce labelled the tackle “dangerous” and “potentially career-ending” and although Ritchie’s medium-term prognosis is bright his absence has arguably cost his team dear at times.
“I said it was a bad challenge,” Bruce said. “But it’s worse when the player is out now until the end of January. Let’s hope this time that Matty makes a full recovery. He’s never really had an injury so he’s not sure how to deal with it, but the strength of character he has, he’ll be fine.
“A tiny fragment, a piece of bone, had obviously come away with the impact, and they’ve gone into the tendon to remove it. I’m not clued up on the technicalities but the surgeon hopes that, this time, it will do the trick.”
Bruce is expected to recall Sean Longstaff after the central midfielder’s completion of a three-match suspension.