Steve Bruce has revealed some of Newcastle’s coronavirus victims have been “goosed” by the illness.
Skipper Jamaal Lascelles and fellow defenders Federico Fernandez and Emil Krafth are among those who have been struck down, while striker Allan Saint-Maximin has been out of action since November 21, with the virus still having an impact on the club.
Asked if the ongoing situation was getting him down, head coach Bruce replied: “I’m not getting down about it. I know how difficult to handle players and staff who have had it. They are absolutely goosed, some of them. That becomes the problem I’m faced with. It’s a difficult thing to manage.
“All of a sudden now, the canteen is closing, we might be thinking about dressing rooms to close again, all of this where the protocols are very difficult to adhere to.
“We can’t have a team meeting, we can’t have a video analysis meeting, we can’t do this, we can’t do that. It becomes very, very difficult.
“The most difficult thing for me is we were struck down a month ago and we are still suffering. We have still got our best player arguably (Saint-Maximin) struggling with it and it’s been seven or eight weeks.
“We’ve got people like Fede (Fernandez), arguably the best pro we’ve got on our books, struggling with it, still. That’s the difficult thing, that people don’t understand.
“Most people are OK, but some aren’t and it becomes very difficult. The captain, for example, couldn’t raise a leg at 45 minutes against Arsenal. He was in a state.
“It has been a difficult situation and that’s what I get down with.”
Saint-Maximin in particular has been a huge loss to Bruce, whose side have been desperately short of creativity during an eight-game winless run they hope will end at Arsenal on Monday evening.
Asked about how costly the Frenchman’s absence had been, and if that showed the Magpies had become overreliant on him, Bruce said: “Have we become overreliant? We’ve been without him for weeks, so I can’t really answer that.
“Have we missed him? One hundred per cent, yes, of course because he can give us something which gives you that spark in the last third, if you like, and playing on the counter-attack, we’re not quite the same when he’s not in the team.”