CIARAN CLARK will be given every chance of making Monday’s trip to Aston Villa, even though Steve Bruce already thinks Newcastle United have the alternatives to cope with a couple of big injury blows.

After the impressive comeback and performance against Bournemouth before the international break, the Magpies would have preferred to have kept the same team that had served them well.

Newcastle have climbed seven points clear of the relegation zone after losing just one of their last five Premier League games and back-to-back wins over Bournemouth and West Ham have been achieved with much-improved attacking displays.

Clark, despite being a defender, scored in both of those successes but a knock he sustained on duty with the Republic of Ireland against Denmark has put his place in doubt for Villa Park.

It is a blow to the 30-year-old who has only just found himself back in the first team picture and the level of his performances at club level earned him a return to the Irish squad.

Now it would be a surprise if he was to be risked as things stand against Villa, although Bruce is appreciative of the fact the former Villan will want to give himself every chance of proving his fitness to stay in the side.

And with Jamaal Lascelles ruled out for the rest of the year with a fractured tibia, Bruce will be forced into at least one change, with Paul Dummett and the fit-again pair of Florian Lejeune and Fabian Schar all vying for the two potential openings in the team.

Bruce said: “We’re blessed. We’ve got six of them who are very decent at what they do. So, touch wood, whatever permutation we’re putting together is doing OK.

“But the competition there is very healthy. We’re losing one, or maybe two, but we’re fortunate we can bring in another two. It’s not a bad situation.”

Lejeune, often referred to by fans as the best defender at the club, has not played since rupturing his cruciate knee ligament in April, while the excellent Schar has been absent with a knee problem for a month.

Bruce said: “The big one obviously is Flo because he’s been out so long, but he’s done everything, he’s played in the games and got the minutes on the training ground.

“He’s now ready to go and the same goes for Schar too. As long as they come through the next two or three days unscathed then both of them will come into contention and that can only be a good thing.

“There comes a point where they can’t just keep training and training and training. They have to be thrown into the deep end if that’s the right word. But Flo’s a wonderful pro – first in and last to go. He’s done everything he possibly can. He feels he’s ready and I think that’s the most important thing.

“If the player himself thinks he’s ready.

“He knows his knee better that anybody. He’s done all the minutes and he’s ready to go.”

Newcastle will face a dangerous Villa on Monday, when Bruce will come up against one of the most promising midfielders in the Premier League – and one he took to Villa Park from Hibernian for £2m before he was sacked last season.

“A club like Villa, we didn’t have £2m then, and in the end we got him,” said Bruce. “How we got him out of Celtic I don’t know because his grandfather was the chairman. It took a couple of games of golf at the Belfry with his dad until we could muster the money together.

“I am delighted for the kid because he is a smashing lad. It took him a minute to win over the supporters because he crashed into a tackle and sprayed a 50 yard pass, and have a shot in first few minutes. He has to be one of my best ever signings.”