LIKE every other Newcastle United supporter, Steve Bruce is waiting for the Premier League to make a decision on Amanda Staveley’s proposed takeover of the club. And even though he is the manager, like every other Newcastle United supporter, he doesn’t have a clue what will happen next.

Having made a successful return to action when they beat Sheffield United at the weekend, Bruce’s side host Aston Villa this evening knowing a win could take them into the top-half of the table for the first time since December.

However, events on the field continue to be overshadowed by issues off the pitch, with mounting suggestions that the Premier League’s assessment of Staveley’s Saudi Arabia-backed bid might finally be coming to an end.

With no direct line to Mike Ashley, Bruce has been watching events from afar, and while a successful takeover could have implications for his job security beyond the end of the season, the lifelong Newcastle fan continues to insist he wants whatever is best for the long-term prospects of the club.

“It seems to have rumbled on and rumbled on, but I can’t influence that,” said Bruce. “I can’t even go to the Premier League and say, ‘When is this takeover going to happen?’ If I could, I would have done months ago, so I can’t worry about that.

“What I can do is prepare the team the best I can. We have given ourselves a wonderful platform with eight games to go, so let the takeover happen if it’s going to happen. If it’s the best thing for the club, then okay. It has dragged on and on, but we just have to be patient for a little bit longer.”

If Sunday’s win represented a decent comeback from lockdown, then the next five days will go a long way to determining how the season as a whole is viewed.

Win tonight, and as well as passing the 40-point mark, Newcastle will potentially go above Arsenal in the table. Win against Manchester City on Sunday, and they will be in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, not exactly a bad return for a team that was being hotly tipped for relegation as recently as the autumn.

“That’s the message I’m hammering home,” said Bruce. “I said before the weekend, we were four points behind Burnley in tenth, could we go and reel them in? We’ve given ourselves a real platform and we have used (the negativity) a little bit.

“People have written off the team, written off me and written off my staff, and haven’t given us a hope in hell’s chance. So all credit to the players. We’ve got five of the bottom six still to play. It won’t be easy as they will be fighting for their lives, but we have an opportunity.”

Sunday’s victory featured Joelinton’s first Premier League goal since August, and having flirted with the idea of playing the Brazilian in a wide-attacking role earlier in the season, Bruce is now instructing Newcastle’s record signing to play as a more orthodox number nine.

“Normally, when you get goalscorers, they aren’t interested in anything other than scoring a goal,” said Bruce. “It’s fair to say Jo is not like that. But we have analysed over the last few months where goals are scored in the Premier League, and that is exactly where he got one on Sunday.

“My coaches have been drilling it into him to get into that sort of area and he needs to be a little bit more selfish. We hope this is the start of things to come.”

Newcastle (probable, 4-4-1-1): Dubravka; Manquillo, Lascelles, Fernandez, Rose; Saint-Maximin, Hayden, Shelvey, Ritchie; Almiron; Joelinton.