STEVE BRUCE feels his Newcastle United side’s second-half comeback against Tottenham provided conclusive proof that the spirit within the squad remains intact.

Having watched two goals from Harry Kane overturn the advantage that was secured through Joelinton’s first half, the Magpies appeared to be heading for a damaging defeat as the St James’ Park clock ticked into the final five minutes.

However, Joe Willock lashed home a close-range equaliser to secure a point, and edge Newcastle three points clear of Fulham, who play Aston Villa later this afternoon.

Last month’s limp surrender at Brighton led to accusations that some of Newcastle’s players had thrown in the towel, but Bruce is adamant that nothing could be further from the truth.

“A lot of players here have been a long time, and it matters to them,” said the Magpies boss. “A lot of them who were playing today have been here four or five years. There’s a certain spirit amongst them, which they need to have.

“They need to have that because they’ve got to be at full tilt to get something out of the Premier League week in, week out. I’ve got no problems with the spirit amongst them, they’re a really, really good group who want the club to succeed.

“Some things have been labelled against them, and that’s not right. You can be criticised for not being right tactically or this, that or the other, but with this group of players, one thing you cannot question is the spirit amongst them.

“Yes, they don’t play well enough at times. But the spirit, attitude and determination is always there, and a lot of them have been here a long time.”

Bruce recalled Matt Ritchie to the starting line-up for the first time since the pair clashed on the training ground a few weeks after the full-back’s proposed January move to Bournemouth broke down.

Ritchie, who delivered the cross that led to Willock’s equaliser, was an effective presence all afternoon at left wing-back, with Bruce insistent that the pair’s falling-out was blown out of proportion.

“Listen, I had a row with somebody, or a word of disagreement,” said Bruce. “It’s nothing. I’m sure you all have words with your bosses sometimes too. It happens up and down the land.

“In management, I never hold a grudge. As soon as I have a row or a disagreement, whatever you want to call it, it’s forgotten the next day as far as I’m concerned and we move forward.

“Matty is the same. He’s had to wait for his opportunity, but the change of shape suited him and he’s put in a really good performance, which I’m pleased about.”