STEVE BRUCE will have to limit his January transfer business to loan signings, with a combination of the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic and Mike Ashley’s ongoing legal action against the Premier League meaning the Newcastle United boss will be unable to make any permanent additions at the start of next year.

With his side in something of a slump in the wake of back-to-back defeats to Southampton and Chelsea, and currently sitting in 15th position in the Premier League table, Bruce would ideally like to make changes when the transfer window reopens in just over a month’s time.

However, as was the case at the start of this year, when Newcastle acquired Danny Rose, Valentino Lazaro and Nabil Bentaleb, if there are to be any additions, they will almost certainly have to be short-term loan deals which do not have a significant impact on the club’s current financial position.

At the start of the season, it had been hoped that Bruce would be in a position to make permanent signings in January if he felt they were necessary, but two key developments have altered Newcastle’s position.

First, the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic mean fans are yet to return to St James’ Park, and even though the Government’s announcement about a gradual return of mass gatherings on Monday provided a chink of light for football clubs, it is widely anticipated that Tyneside will be placed into tier three tomorrow, meaning Newcastle will have to continue playing their home games behind-closed-doors.

While the Premier League’s lucrative television deals have provided something of a cushion for top-flight clubs, the Newcastle hierarchy are still having to deal with a significant hole in their budget. As a result, Ashley does not want to commit to any large-scale spending until it becomes clear when the situation is likely to return to something approaching normality.

At the same time, the Newcastle owner is ploughing on with his legal action against the Premier League relating to the collapse of Amanda Staveley’s proposed Saudi Arabia-backed takeover of the club earlier this year.

Last week, Ashley sanctioned the release of a statement which confirmed Newcastle’s ongoing legal efforts, which are being led by QCs Shaheed Fatima and Nick de Marco of London law firm Blackstone Chambers. “(The club) can confirm that is has issued arbitration proceedings against the EPL,” said the statement. “It is unclear when those proceedings will be resolved.”

Ashley’s willingness to enter into an arbitration dispute reflects both his ongoing determination to sell up, and his confidence that Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners group remain keen to complete a buyout and retain the support of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

With a takeover still potentially live, Ashley does want to make major changes to the balance sheet by sanctioning a significant round of spending in January. Bruce will be permitted to make changes to his squad, but the strong feeling at the minute from those close to discussions is that they will be loan deals rather than permanent transfers.

The one caveat to that is that the situation could change if players were to leave in order to generate funds, but having failed to move on fringe players in the summer, there is very little confidence that Newcastle will have more success in trying to reshuffle their squad in January.

DeAndre Yedlin, Christian Atsu and Henri Saivet are all out of contract in the summer, but while the Magpies will be willing to listen to approaches for the trio, it is hard to envisage a scenario that would see them moving on for significant sums. Dwight Gayle is a more viable option when it comes to selling someone in order to raise funds, but the striker’s long-standing injury issues are bound to concern potential suitors.

The loan market will therefore be Newcastle’s principal focus, and Bruce will already be aware of a couple of potential options.

Former loanee Jetro Willems is back on the market after recovering from a long-term knee injury, and given that his current squad lacks natural cover for Jamal Lewis, Bruce will almost certainly be interested in the Dutchman, who has expressed a desire to return to St James’ Park.

Chelsea have indicated that Fikayo Tomori will be leaving Stamford Bridge on loan at the start of next year, and the England international could provide competition for Newcastle’s current centre-halves.