STEVE BRUCE is heading into the final four days of the transfer window with “four or five” loan targets on his radar, but the Newcastle United manager admits he could struggle to make another addition, with the Magpies having “broken their transfer rules” to sign Joe Willock.

Willock’s £22m signing from Arsenal is Newcastle’s only piece of summer business, and while Bruce continues to make inquiries about potential loan additions, there is a growing chance that no one else will arrive ahead of Tuesday’s 11pm deadline.

Not only has Bruce spent his summer transfer kitty on Willock, he is also struggling to create a space in the 25-man squad list that has to be submitted to the Premier League. The Magpies manager is awaiting a medical update on Karl Darlow after the goalkeeper underwent a series of tests this week following his hospitalisation with Covid, with the advice set to determine whether or not he names four goalkeepers in his squad.

If he has to select four keepers, he will have to drop an established senior figure in order to accommodate a loan addition, but he will continue to monitor the market right up to Tuesday’s deadline.

“I’ve got four or five in mind, but whether it’s going to be possible to get them off the other club too? That’s always a problem,” said Bruce, ahead of this afternoon’s Premier League game with Southampton. “We’ve had our targets, ones to look for and keep an eye on, but as I’ve said, we’ve had to wait because the bigger clubs – and we’re a big club don’t get me wrong – tend to take pre-season to have a look at their squad.

“If I name four goalkeepers, the squad is full. That’s one of the big issues. I’ve said all along that we’re only maybe looking at the market for a loan player. We’ll see where we are. We’re waiting on a doctor’s report on Karl, and we’ve still got one or two days to go before the window closes, so we’ll make that decision in the next 48 hours.”

Newcastle’s decision to push through a permanent deal for Willock has effectively prevented them from completing additional signings, but Bruce insists he was always keen to do everything possible to re-sign the midfielder from Arsenal rather than spread his transfer budget more lightly.

Whereas Mike Ashley has previously refused to pay a transfer fee in installments, the Newcastle owner was persuaded to alter his stance in order to sign Willock without having to cross his budgetary red lines.

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that, with Covid, there wasn’t a lot of money in the budget at all,” said Bruce. “There wasn’t enough money to buy Joe Willock, but we managed to do it and broke all our transfer rules from the last few years. I don’t know the actual structure of the deal, but I believe we paid for it in installments, which is not the policy of the club.

“To trade, we maybe needed one or two to leave as well, and that hasn’t happened. We’re in the situation where yes, we haven’t got a lot of money, there’s no money to be had, but if there’s a loan deal, like we got Joe (last season), then we’ll look to do it.”

One departure has been sanctioned this week, with Matty Longstaff having agreed a season-long loan deal with Scottish Premier League side Aberdeen.

The younger of the two Longstaff brothers is moving to Pittodrie, having failed to establish himself in Bruce’s first-team squad over the course of the last 12 months.

“It’s happened very quickly over the last couple of days,” said the Magpies boss. “I think we’ve said over the last couple of weeks that it’s important for young Matty to go and play some football. He had a difficult year with one thing and another last year. It’s a great opportunity for him to go and play.”

The 21-year-old was linked with a number of clubs in the Championship, but Aberdeen were the only side to lodge a formal loan offer.

“There might have been interest from the Championship, but when it comes down to the offer, Aberdeen have put their offer on the table and it looks as if the kid is going to accept it,” added Bruce. “He’s desperate to go and play football. Aberdeen’s a good place to go and play, so good luck to him.”