STEVE BRUCE has hit out at suggestions that Newcastle United are “stagnating” and claimed the club have made considerable progress under his tutelage this season.

The Magpies head into the final four games of the campaign on the 43-point mark, just two fewer than they achieved under Rafael Benitez last season, but with the Premier League still dragging their heels over Amanda Staveley’s proposed takeover plans, there is a sense of the club treading water.

If Staveley’s Saudi Arabia-backed consortium is prevented from taking control at St James’ Park, and Ashley remains in charge, it is feared Newcastle’s ambitions will never stretch beyond surviving in the Premier League and trying to turn a profit, a prospect that hardly elicits excitement when posited against the transformative possibilities of a change in ownership.

Bruce has repeated his call for the Premier League to provide some much-needed clarity, but no matter what happens in the boardroom in the new few weeks, the Newcastle boss feels it is unfair to portray the Magpies as a club on the drift.

“This myth that the club is just stagnating, it is not right,” said Bruce, ahead of tomorrow's lunchtime game at Watford. “And it is important we try to address that. We have got a chance to have our third-highest points total in the last 14 years – and in one of those, we finished fifth.

“We’ve only been out of the Championship for three years, and you only have to look at some of the teams below us that are struggling to see how strong the Premier League is. You look at Watford and wonder why they are near the bottom, then you look at West Ham, Aston Villa and Bournemouth, and all the money they’ve spent.

“This myth that we are just stagnating and we’ve got this horrible stale environment, it’s not right. We are gradually improving, and the more you are in the Premier League, the more you improve and the better players you have. That is our aim – to keep improving.”

To that end, Bruce has held meetings to discuss his summer plans, albeit with an acceptance that things could change at a stroke if a takeover goes through.

The last 18 months have seen Newcastle spend more than £75m on Joelinton, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin, and Bruce feels the trio represent the kind of marquee signings that will required if the Magpies are to kick on again this season.

There will be a need to replenish the squad will some less-expensive signings – turning Danny Rose’s loan move into a permanent transfer remains a priority – but if he remains in charge, Bruce will be pushing for at least one big-money addition with the potential to transform Newcastle’s outlook at a stroke.

“If you look at the squad of players, then yes, you need depth,” he said. “But you need that little bit of quality in the Premier League for your first team. We’ve got some very decent players here, but it’s vitally important that we continue improving.

“We are in a position where we are not stagnating, we are trying to take the club forward and we are trying to improve year on year in the Premier League. The longer you are in the Premier League, you have that chance to do that.

“There are challenging times ahead, right across the board, in the Premier League and certainly in the Football League, but I think the more quality you have, the better you are.

“We have seen what Almiron and Saint-Maximin have done here. They’ve given us that little bit of quality the team needs.”