STEVE BRUCE last night admitted that the lack of any FA Cup atmosphere had hampered Newcastle United as they exited the competition at the hands of Manchester City.

The Magpies’ first FA Cup quarter-final appearance for 14 years turned into something of a non-event at St James’ Park as goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling enabled City to set up a Wembley semi-final against Arsenal.

Dwight Gayle missed a glorious opportunity to level the scores when he fired over the crossbar from the edge of the six-yard box, but an occasion that should have been one of the highlights of Newcastle’s season felt disappointingly flat because of the lack of a crowd inside St James’ Park.

Newcastle’s players might have been lifted by a raucous home support, and while Bruce admitted his players were far too passive as their opponents dominated possession, he felt events conspired against his side pulling off an FA Cup shock.

“It’s bad enough playing Manchester City anyway,” said Bruce. “But there’s no doubt it’s even harder without 52,000 mad Geordies shouting their heads off to give us some encouragement.

“There’s no question that we wanted and needed that. Had this game been taking place normally at half-past-six on a Sunday night, it would have been terrific.

“It wasn’t to be, and when you’re playing against these teams, you really need your crowd to give you a lift. We’re unique here, and it would have been a marvellous occasion.

“It’s not the case, and supporters or no supporters, we were too passive in our first-half approach. We were better in the second half and made it a cup tie, and it would have been interesting if we had taken that big chance (from Gayle), which you have to take when you play against these big teams.”

Gayle was not the only Newcastle player left wondering about what might have been as Fabian Schar was responsible for the concession of the first-half penalty that resulted in de Bruyne opening the scoring.

Newcastle had barely had a kick during the first half, but while Manchester City enjoyed more than 80 per cent possession, they had begun to become frustrated by the massed ranks of Magpies defenders before Schar inexplicably decided to bundle over Gabriel Jesus as the Brazilian tried to get to a cross from Kyle Walker.

“He’ll be disappointed and frustrated,” said Bruce. “Of course he has to burden that – it’s a mistake, a blatant mistake. I don’t know why, but that’s what happens in football.

“The one thing you need when you’re playing against Man City is for your defenders to be concentrating, and concentration was key to it. When I look back on it now, it was a poor challenge that he didn’t have to make.”

With their FA Cup run over, and their Premier League safety all-but-secure with seven games to play, the final few weeks of Newcastle’s season threaten to be something of a non-event.

Off the pitch, however, the club continue to stand on the threshold of a potentially pivotal moment, with the Premier League still considering their judgement on Amanda Staveley’s proposed £300m buyout of Mike Ashley.

It is now more than three months since the governing body began their owners and directors’ test, and like everybody else, Bruce is growing tired of having to wait for an update.

“I think everybody needs a bit of clarity,” he said. “I’m led to believe it is the Premier League that is stalling all of these negotiations, and if that is the case, they need to come and make a decision sooner rather than later. It’s not healthy for anybody.

“For me personally now, though, we’ve got another game on Wednesday (at Bournemouth), and we’ve given ourselves a wonderful opportunity. We can’t use what’s going on as an excuse, but we need a bit of clarity and for it to be put to bed one way or another.”

While the lack of off-field certainty is hampering planning in a number of areas, Newcastle yesterday completed their first piece of summer transfer business with the signing of goalkeeper Mark Gillespie.

The 28-year-old Tynesider, who was on Newcastle’s books as a junior prior to his release at 16, joins as a free agent following his release from Scottish Premier League side Motherwell.

He replaces Rob Elliot, who left Newcastle earlier this week, although his arrival also places a question mark against the long-term prospects of both Karl Darlow, who started yesterday, and Freddie Woodman, who is currently on loan at Swansea City.

“I think it’s been signed in the last 24 hours,” said Bruce. “We’re delighted to have him on board. He was here as a youngster, went away and played some games, and we welcome him back.”