IN THE days when tackling was a welcome part of the game and shorts were short, Steve Bruce wasn’t afraid to get stuck in.

As a centre-half he moved through the ranks from Gillingham to Norwich to Manchester United, taking no prisoners along the way.

But Bruce was offended by the tackle on Matt Richie in midweek, the lunge by Leicester’s Hamza Choudhury, ruling Ritchie out of action for up to two months.

Bruce, who admitted the game has changed ‘drastically’ since he retired in 1998, said: “I never went over the ball. Never. I can’t remember injuring anyone either. Mind, it was that long ago, I cannot remember! But I never went over the ball.”

“No chance [he won the ball], he went over the ball which makes it dangerous.

“They are the ones that really... if Matty hadn’t taken [his leg] away, he’d seen it coming, he could have been in serious trouble. It could have been eight months, it could have been career-ending. If his leg had been planted on the floor, he was in serious trouble.

“He rode it a little bit but it was a horror challenge.”

Choudhury has since claimed: “It was a 50/50, he pulled out last minute which made it look a lot worse.

“I don't know what I can say, I try to tackle, I've never gone in to hurt someone and unfortunately it has, I hope he gets better soon.

“I know Steve Bruce was a tough-tackling defender in his day, and people are quick to forget how they played football.’’

But Bruce, ahead of today’s game with Watford at St James’ Park, added: “You can’t tackle like that anymore. When you leave the floor, you are over the top of the ball in your follow through. Sorry but it is a bad challenge.”

Choudhury was sent off for England Under-21s in the summer European Championships defeat to France. He also apologised for that one at the time and admitted: “I will go back and think about it. The next time I get in that situation, I won’t make that tackle.’’

Take two and Bruce hopes Choudhury now learns from his St James’ Park experience.

“Look, he is young and as I said, if Matt Ritchie’s foot had been on the floor , it could have been even more serious. Has he done it before? I think he must learn from it. To be fair, he was sent off the time before,’’ mused the manager.

“He is a very, very good player. He is enthusiastic and wants to go and win the ball back. I’ve got nothing against that. I liked that sort of thing myself but it is a bad challenge and I hope he learns from it.

“You can get a reputation, course you can.”

Ritchie has been a mainstay of the Magpies’ side in recent years, adapting to the left-wing back role from a more advanced position of late.

Bruce has only worked with the Scotland international for a matter of weeks, but has been greatly impressed by his outlook and professionalism around the club’s training ground on a daily basis.

“My job would be so much easier if they were all like Matt Ritchie. I think I would be round the bend like!’’ smiled Bruce.

“His attitude, the way he trains, the way he works, looks after himself, the way he is as a pro is right up there as good as you can get. He will be a big miss so he will have a break for a little bit and then we will have him back around the place because he has an abundance of enthusiasm and that rubs off on others. He’s terrific every day.”

Ritchie’s career has taken him to Dagenham, Notts County and Swindon before his move to Bournemouth and then a five-year deal with the Magpies in 2016.

Bruce said: “He enjoys it and gives himself a slap every now and then saying to himself how good it is. Because he knows how tough it is. Given the grounding that he has had, I say to them constantly, “you’ve got the best job in the world”.

“Maybe when their careers are finished, they will realise it and remember it, They’ve got the greatest job.

“They were all gone yesterday within an hour and a half, paid thousands of pounds a week to play football. What better job have you got? Fantastic.’’