STEVE BRUCE is out to end Newcastle’s wait for a top-half finish – after admitting the Saudi takeover is ‘dead in the water’.
Owner Mike Ashley fumed over the failed £300million bid on Wednesday, pinning the blame on Premier League chief Richard Masters.
But with that saga seemingly over, Bruce is buoyant after convincing Ashley to ‘flex his muscles’ in the transfer market.
Buying British, the Magpies boss has splashed £35m on Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser, Jamal Lewis and Jeff Hendrick.
While Rafa Benitez secured 10th in 2018, the Toon have not finished above that since 2012 under Alan Pardew.
And after Bruce claimed 13th last time around, he has high hopes ahead of a trip to West Ham.
Having feared the chop had it gone through, the Newcastle boss said: “The takeover looks dead in the water.
“It’s as if now it has eventually gone away.
“It was a unique situation which everybody looked at and thought, ‘If this happens, does it lift Newcastle straight away into the realms of a Manchester City, or a Chelsea?’.
“That’s why Mike is probably disappointed, that it could have taken Newcastle to where everybody would love to see them – competing like they did 20 years ago.
“But he is still interested and only wants the best for the club.
“Now we have to get on with our business and try and finish above where we did last year.
“Certainly there’s a far healthier look to the squad than it had 12 months ago.
“We gave ourselves a chance of the top 10 last season, so that’s got to be the aim.”
The mood on Tyneside has drastically shifted after they were thrashed 5-1 by Championship side Middlesbrough in a friendly 11 days ago.
Hendrick was the only signing through the door, Andy Carroll was the only fit striker, and a relegation dogfight loomed.
But barring Ashley’s outburst at the Premier League, the storm clouds have lifted.
The takeover looks dead in the water. It’s as if now it has eventually gone away.
Bruce knows the heat is now on to deliver.
He added: “Pressure? You’re always under pressure at Newcastle.
“There always seems to be a storm. But there’s nothing like a few signings to lift the mood.
“They are the key to it, and just when we needed it.
“Especially when you bring in a centre-forward too – that always whets the appetite of Newcastle fans – and one which is proven, like Wilson is.
“The overwhelming thing was that they all wanted to play for Newcastle – it’s still a big draw, you know.”
Recruitment has shifted from largely young foreign players with potential sell-on value to Brits who have been there and done it.
With £40m Brazilian flop Joelinton no doubt in mind, Bruce said: “For a lot of people it takes time to adapt, to get used to playing in England, to get used to the food, to try and speak the language,
“We decided to target people who can come in and make a fist of it straight away.
“With the competition we had for Callum and Ryan in particular, it was always going to be difficult.
“We did our utmost to try and make it happen, and thankfully the club has supported that and got it over the line.”
Isaac Hayden and reserve keeper Karl Darlow have both signed new long-term contracts, while defender Florian Lejeune has gone to Alaves in Spain on loan.