NEWCASTLE UNITED are in a strong position to fend off growing interest in Allan Saint-Maximim this summer.

The Magpies’ French winger is attracting the attention from a host of Premier League clubs following his fine start to life on Tyneside.

There is big talk the likes of Everton, Crystal Palace and Wolverhampton Wanderers are prepared to make big money offers for his services at the end of the season.

Newcastle are also being told that some bigger clubs are monitoring his performances, so a strong end to the campaign could mean an even greater battle to retain his services come the summer.

But Newcastle are unconcerned after moving eight points clear of the relegation zone by beating Southampton on Saturday, another massive step towards Premier League survival.

And playing in the English top-flight is clearly a huge factor in being able to keep hold of their best players, with Saint-Maximim already a huge favourite at St James’ Park.

The 22-year-old also signed a six-year contract when he made the £17m move from Nice last summer, so Newcastle are clearly in a strong bargaining position to keep hold of him or demand a whopping fee.

But Bruce wants to improve Newcastle going forward and he sees Saint-Maximim as a big part of his plans, knowing how exciting he is with the ball at his feet and the desire he has to get at his marker.

Saint-Maximim has needed very little time to adapt to English football and the hope is among the Newcastle coaching team that he will only get better given his tender age.

Bruce is certain he will, too. He said: “If two of them are marking him, then he’s got to pass to one of his mates who are free.

“That thing is the next step. Everything with him is all totally natural, which you can’t teach, and he’s been naturally blessed with it. He’s got frightening pace and wants to beat you. If you’re a defender, he’s always causing you a threat.”

Saint-Maximim was left out of the recent goalless draw with Burnley because of concerns over his hamstring but he has responded with goals against West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup and then at Southampton.

Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti is one of those very keen on him and he is keeping tabs on any movement, with the Italian keen to land the sort of player who can make the Toffees challenge for a top four spot next season.

There is no disputing that Saint-Maximin has proven he can handle the Premier League but Bruce is determined to keep hold of him to help Newcastle’s own ambitions to climb the league under him.

The former France youth international, who has previously attracted interest from Italy, Germany and Spain too, is enjoying his time at St James’ and his long contract means Newcastle hold the upperhand.

Bruce has just handed new deals to Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie, two of the club’s stalwarts, and they remain in deep negotiations to secure the services of Matty Longstaff for the long term. They also hope to reach an agreement with Matty’s brother Sean over new terms, although he is contracted for a couple more years anyway.

First team regulars Federico Fernandez and Javier Manquillo are both out of contract in the summer, as well as the injury-prone Andy Carroll. There will have to be discussions with Karl Darlow and Rob Elliott as well as the loan signings whose deals at Newcastle are all due to come to an end in the close season too.

Newcastle boss Bruce has wanted to get his side clear of trouble and guaranteed safety before then turning his attention properly to transfer plans ahead of next season.

Middlesbrough’s young winger Hayden Coulson, who can also play at left-back, is one of those known to have been on Newcastle’s radar in recent weeks, while chief scout Steve Nickson is continuing to explore the foreign market.

Newcastle face Sheffield United this Saturday before a trip to third from bottom Bournemouth a week later.