STEVE BRUCE will be targeting the loan market as he looks to improve his Newcastle United squad this month, but the Magpies manager already accepts it could prove extremely difficult to recruit anybody in the January transfer window.

With Mike Ashley still hoping to resurrect a deal with Amanda Staveley’s Saudi Arabia-backed consortium for the sale of the Magpies in the second half of the season, and with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic still having a major impact on Premier League finances, Bruce understands why he has been told permanent transfers will be off the agenda this month.

He remains hopeful of being able to complete a couple of loan signings, citing last January, when Newcastle recruited Danny Rose, Valentino Lazaro and Nabil Bentaleb on a temporary basis, as the template he will be attempting to follow.

Tottenham outcast Dele Alli has been mentioned as a possible target, along with Manchester United defensive duo Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, but while Bruce has been putting feelers out in the last few days, he is anticipating some difficult negotiating before anything comes to fruition.

“I think it’s fair to say that the loan market is what we’re looking at,” said the Newcastle boss, ahead of Sunday’s home game with Leicester City. “But I don’t think we’ll be alone in that.

“I can’t see much being done in January because of the problems everybody is facing and the money that every club is haemorrhaging, so it will be the loan market that we will look at.

“We did that last year and did it very well, so we’ll see what’s out there. It’s always notoriously difficult, and it could be even more difficult with all the Covid stuff that obviously has affected everybody.”

Newcastle are already at their 25-man Premier League squad limit, indeed Christian Atsu, Henri Saivet, Achraf Lazaar and Rolando Aarons remain on the payroll even though they were not even handed a squad number in October.

Trying to move on any or all of those fringe players is a priority, but Bruce will still have to free up another squad slot before he can add a loan player to his first-team group. As a result, any new additions will have to be of a certain quality, and be able to hit the ground running, in order to make their recruitment worthwhile.

“You have to name your squad again, but you can still only have 25,” said Bruce. “The key to it all is if there’s something with a bit of quality that can help us, then great - if not, then you’re not improving and we’re not going to get any better.

“I’m patient as far as that’s concerned because you do get much more value in the summer and I’m sure we will have more to pick from, and my job is to keep inching us forward. We’re not going to go and bring five or six in overnight - that’s not going to happen - so we have to be realistic and responsible. But if there is somebody out there on loan, I’ll do my best.”

Bruce’s immediate priority is Sunday’s meeting with a Leicester side that headed into the current round of fixtures sitting in third position, just four points off league leaders Liverpool, after their festive draws with Manchester United and Crystal Palace.

“They’ve been very canny in the transfer market again and taken in some really top players,” he said. “They’ve got a centre-forward who is the envy of most in (Jamie) Vardy. They’re a very good team – that’s why they’re sitting healthily like they are.

“They just missed out last year on the top four, maybe on the last day of the season, so they’ve been a very good side now for a couple of years.”