STEVE Bruce hopes to see Matt Ritchie back in action early next month after the Newcastle United man had further surgery this week.

Ritchie was injured against Leicester earlier this season, after being clattered by Hazma Choudry. Bruce was critical of the midfielder after the incident, calling it a “Horror tackle” and claiming Ritchie could have suffered a broken leg.

And at his press conference this morning, Bruce spoke of Ritchie’s latest set-back.

“Losing Matt is a blow, we are all disappointed,’’ he said. “There’s nothing worse for a player than having an operation like he did and the surgeon decides he needs a bit more. We are all devastated.

“He had a period of rest, saw the specialist and had the operation the next morning. It’s nothing too horrific and we hope he’s back early January.

“A piece of bone, fragment, came away in the impact and gone into the tendon and it had to be removed. I’m not sure of the technicalities, we felt it was done last time and he needed more. Hopefully he does the trick.

“The worst thing as a player is an injury and getting your head around it. He was so close, joined in for two or three days and felt something in the back of his ankle.’’

He added: “It happens in football and I said at the time it was a bad challenge, but it’s worse when the player is out for a long time.

“He’s never had an injury like this and he’s a strong character. He will hopefully be fine.’’