STEVE BRUCE claims there is still “a good chance” Jetro Willems will complete a permanent transfer to Newcastle United this summer, but a decision over the Dutchman’s future has been shelved until he completes his recovery from the knee injury that has abruptly ended his season.

Willems damaged his anterior cruciate ligaments in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Chelsea, and will undergo surgery in the next few days after Newcastle’s medical staff agreed a recovery plan with representatives of the defender’s parent club, Eintracht Frankfurt.

Frankfurt’s medical team will decide whether the operation takes place in England, Germany or Holland, but whatever is determined, all parties agree the 25-year-old will not be in a position where he can play again this season.

His absence will be a major blow as he has established himself as Newcastle’s first-choice left wing-back since moving to Tyneside in the summer. He has featured in all bar four of the Magpies’ league games, scoring against Liverpool and Manchester City, and having agreed an €11m clause as part of their loan agreement with Eintracht Frankfurt, the Newcastle hierarchy had been expected to trigger a permanent transfer before the end of the current campaign.

That decision is now on hold, with Bruce and the rest of Newcastle’s recruitment team mindful that this is the second serious knee injury to have sidelined Willems in the last two years. A permanent deal remains possible, but a final decision is not anticipated until the defender’s rehabilitation is at an advanced stage.

“It puts everything on hold,” admitted Bruce, ahead of this evening’s trip to Everton. “We’ll see how he gets on and revisit it. There’s a likelihood he might come back, but we’ll have to see where he is. If they operate in the next week, I’d have thought that would probably bring him back into pre-season, so we’ll see how his recovery is and where we go from there.

“I was with him (on Sunday) when he got the bad news, but he knew, I think we all knew. Of course, he’s had something similar before. It’s a shame because he was just getting used to the Premier League and did very well for us.

“He was playing week in, week out and had done very well, and his goals against City and Liverpool were there for everybody to see.”

Willems’ injury is part of a defensive double blow, with Paul Dummett also having been ruled out of the remainder of the season.

Dummett has damaged his tendons, and while there is a chance he could avoid the need for an operation, he is unlikely to feature again this term. As a result, Newcastle will be entering the transfer market to secure cover for Matt Ritchie, who has only just returned from a four-month injury absence.

“It’s a concern for him (Dummett) as well,” said Bruce. “Just as it would be for anybody who has had problems like that. It’s the worst part of football, that horrible injury which keeps you out for weeks and months. He’s a strong enough character to deal with it. He’ll just have to get on with it and work on his rehabilitation.”

The absence of Willems and Dummett did not prevent Newcastle seeing out Saturday’s win over Chelsea, which came despite Frank Lampard’s side enjoying 70 per cent of possession.

Chelsea also recorded 19 shots to Newcastle’s seven, but as has been the case on a number of occasions this season, Bruce’s players found a way to claim all three points.

“You can look at statistics all you like, but we know what we are and we are not going to dominate the ball against Chelsea like we did against Rochdale,” said Bruce. “We understand our limitations and we will just try to play to our strengths.

“I realised straight away after a harsh lesson at Leicester that the way forward was to keep them in their comfort zone and what they’ve been used to. The one thing they do have, since the days of the Championship, is a good spirit.”

Newcastle (probable, 3-4-2-1): Dubravka; Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark; Krafth, Hayden, S Longstaff, Ritchie; Almiron, Atsu; Joelinton.