STEVE BRUCE has admitted Fabian Schar and Jamaal Lascelles are already facing a battle to be fit for the start of next season as Newcastle United’s defensive injury problems continue to mount.

Schar dislocated his shoulder in the closing stages of last night’s 3-1 home defeat to Tottenham and was immediately whisked away to hospital to assess the full extent of the problem.

Lascelles has also been in hospital this week, undergoing an ankle operation that will keep him out of the Magpies two remaining matches and could also force him to miss a big chunk of the pre-season period ahead of an anticipated restart in September.

Newcastle are already without Florian Lejeune and Ciaran Clark, neither of whom have played a single minute since the restart, and Bruce admits Schar’s injury capped a frustrating night that saw Harry Kane strike twice as the Magpies suffered a third successive defeat.

“The problem that we face is that with the turnaround being so quick, we’re already having to have a look at whether players will be ready for next season,” admitted Bruce. “Fab Schar has had to go away to hospital, and Jamaal Lascelles had an operation on his ankle yesterday.

“We’re not going to put a timescale on Jamaal, but you would think any ankle operation is going to be at least six to eight weeks. We hope that he’s back for the start of next season, but we’ll have to monitor him and see where he goes.

“We think Fab’s had a dislocation of his shoulder so, in that respect, it’s been very difficult. We’re down to the bare bones and to have eight or nine people missing is tough.”

Like their Premier League rivals, Newcastle’s players have been forced to endure a hectic schedule since the end of lockdown. However, while some of the bigger clubs are able to make a raft of changes and constantly rotate their squad, Bruce does not feel he has that luxury.

“It certainly benefits the bigger teams, who can make five or six changes,” he said. “They can do that and their strength doesn’t change.

“We’ve got our two fittest boys – Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff – nicking a hamstring, and that’s the consequence of playing tired and not recovering enough. We haven’t got that luxury of changing five or six.

“It’s a frustration, but we knew what the schedule was going to be and we’ll just batten down the hatches, get on with it and try to finish as high as we can.”

Last night’s defeat followed previous reverses to Manchester City and Watford, and means Newcastle are limping towards the end of the season, something Bruce was desperate to avoid.

“We’ve had an awful night against Manchester City and an awful second half against Watford in the last eight games,” he said. “It’s disappointing, but we’ve played very well against a very good Tottenham team, who are pushing for Europe and are one of the best sides in the country. In terms of the way we played, I couldn’t be more pleased.

“The frustration is that we’ve given away a couple of soft goals again, which unfortunately sticks with me a bit. But I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.”