Steve Bruce will lock horns with Leicester once again delighted with the response he has had from his Newcastle players since their September horror show against the same opponents.
The jury was still out – and for some, it remains so – on the Magpies’ new head coach when they headed for the King Power Stadium on September 29 having collected just five points from their opening six Premier League fixtures and been dumped out of the Carabao Cup by the Foxes on penalties.
It was to get worse before it got better as Brendan Rodgers’ men romped to a 5-0 win following Isaac Hayden’s dismissal with the visitors in disarray after a change of formation designed to combat the home side’s strengths, prompting a brutal post-match inquest.
Bruce said: “I knew that day they were a good side and I regretted the change I made. Let’s be fair, up until half-time, it was only 1-0 and we have a man sent off.
“For me, it wasn’t about the shape or the tactics or this, that or the other, it was the resilience. I didn’t think we did enough to prevent the five with 10 men. That was my concern.
“Touch wood, since then they’ve been terrific in what they’ve done. They’ve got us just outside the top 10 going into the new year with it all to play for. Let’s enjoy the ride.”
Bruce’s call to arms was answered immediately with a 1-0 home victory over Manchester United the following weekend and his players took 20 of the next 33 points they contested before back-to-back defeats by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side and Everton over Christmas.
However, Bruce is refusing to be carried away by a league table which sees his team sitting in 11th place ahead of the New Year’s Day clash with Leicester.
He said: “My job since I’ve walked through the door is to try to take the club forward and keep it as an established Premier League club.
“Let’s not forget, it’s only two years ago we were in the Championship. It’s early doors still for the club as far as I’m concerned. The more you’re in it, the more we’ll get bigger and stronger.
“It would be great to have a few additions to help the team come along the way, and whether that’s January or the summer, so be it.”
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