STEVE BRUCE will be doing everything he can to keep Sean Longstaff at Newcastle United after the promising midfielder admitted how overwhelming it has been to be linked with Manchester United.

Bruce will take charge of his first game as the Magpies’ new head coach on Saturday morning when they face West Ham United in the Asia Trophy.

The 58-year-old faced a press conference in Shanghai on Friday for the first time when he insisted he will have a big say on transfer dealings at St James’ Park and he will not be Mike Ashley’s “puppet” – something he has been accused of since taking the reins.

While at least a couple of new signings are in Bruce’s thinking before the season opener with Arsenal in three weeks’ time, he also knows his squad can’t really afford to lose many more players unless replacements are brought in.

And keeping Longstaff on his native Tyneside is high in his thoughts, despite being informed that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is interested in working with the £30m-rated midfielder at Old Trafford following a change of transfer policy there.

The 24-year-old only made nine Premier League appearances last season after being handed his chance under Rafa Benitez and his performances made England boss Gareth Southgate – and Manchester United – take notice.

“If somebody had said to me a year ago I would be in this position, I would probably have laughed at them,” said Longstaff, who had a loan move to Portsmouth blocked a year ago and is recovering from a knee injury.

“This time last year I was deciding whether to go to League One (Portsmouth) on loan. A year on, you are seeing your name linked with one of the biggest clubs in the world.

“For me, it is all a positive really. It gives you even more confidence. When I was in for a short amount of time people took notice of me. It is flattering but my job is at Newcastle.”

Newcastle are closing in on signing Brazilian striker Joelinton for £36m, which could rise with add-ons, and he is much-needed following the departures of Ayoze Perez to Leicester City for £30m and the end of Salomon Rondon’s loan. The latter has completed a move to Benitez’s Dalian Yifang form West Brom.

Bruce said: “We want to make a couple of signings at least.

Bruce continued: "With the loss of Rondon and Perez that's an area we have to take a look at. We are active in the transfer market as we speak and, hopefully, we can get a couple of players over the line.

“It’s like most clubs really. Ultimately, I will have the final say which is only correct. I've read nonsense that I won't, but you have to have a say (as manager).

“We've got a very experienced team, but we'll work with the scouting department. It's vital, we've got some very capable people. The policy is to identify the players, make sure they fit in with what we want and fit in (to the squad).”

Bruce then went further during his press conference after hearing the claims he will be told what to do by Ashley, an owner disliked by Newcastle’s supporters.

“I don't think it comes into the equation,” said Bruce. “Am I in charge of transfers or am I a puppet? That won't happen, of course. That's the sort of thing I'm referring to.”

“There has been some nonsense and I’m not going to go into too much of it, but I’m nobody’s puppet. Not Mike’s, not anyone’s.

Legendary Newcastle striker Alan Shearer actually told Bruce – a close friend – not to accept the job.

Bruce said: “Make no mistake, I know it is going to be difficult. I'm under no illusion but I've come in with eyes wide open.

“I understand I've got big boots to fill, but to be given the opportunity, I'm delighted. I couldn't really refuse the opportunity. I'm like every Geordie living that dream, how lucky am I? I'll have to put up with some nonsense but I’m determined to grasp the opportunity and have a go.

“Alan (Shearer) is a big friend of mine and he's welcome to his opinion, but I'm my own man, I understand the challenge of what lies ahead, I'm not everyone's cup of tea and I'm not Rafa.

“Whoever was in this seat would have found it difficult, but with my experience, I'm confident we can continue to take the club forward.

“I've not been in Newcastle to monitor it (the negative reaction), I don't read it, if you read and scrutinise everything thrown your way, you'd end up in a madhouse.

“Just judge me over the period of time, and I'm quietly confident after nearly 400 games in the Premier League that I will do OK.”

Sheffield Wednesday have issued a statement this week threatening legal action at the way Bruce resigned on Monday to take over at Newcastle just six months after taking over at Hillsborough.

And Bruce said: “I can understand the disappointment. I enjoyed the three or four, five months I worked there, but I'd like to put it out there that a manager's contract can be terminated.

"That applies when a manager wants to leave, I thought it was in hand. I wish them the best of luck, but it was the challenge to manage this great club that was the overriding factor for me to be as selfish as I was.”