THE last two weeks on Tyneside have witnessed excited talk of challenging some of the biggest clubs in Europe, but having watched his side lose their first game since the departure of Mike Ashley, Steve Bruce has conceded that Newcastle United currently find themselves embroiled in a “relegation battle”.

The Magpies crashed to a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Tottenham on a remarkable afternoon at St James’ Park that saw play suspended for around 20 minutes after a supporter suffered a cardiac arrest in the East Stand.

The break in play punctured the celebratory mood that had built ahead of kick-off, and by the time the final whistle blew, Bruce was listening to chants ring around St James’ Park calling for his dismissal.

Newcastle are still to win a game this season, and given they already find themselves three points adrift of safety, Bruce has conceded that the first priority for the new regime is to avoid a drop into the Championship.

“Have we not been in that (a relegation battle) for five of the last six years? I would think so,” said the Newcastle boss, when asked whether his side was already fighting against the drop. “We’ve been up against it since I picked up the reins.

“To finish 12th and 13th, I found that very respectable for where we are at the moment. I’m still convinced we’ll win a relegation battle again, but of course if you’re in the bottom half of the division, then you’re in a relegation battle, if that’s the way you want to put it so early.”

Yesterday’s game was Bruce’s 1,000th in management, and it could prove to be his last in charge of the Magpies, with Amanda Staveley, who is in charge of the day-of-day running of the club, expected to rule on his future in the next couple of days.

Staveley sat next to Newcastle’s new non-executive chairman, Yasir al-Rumayyan, yesterday, and is set to wield the axe ahead of Saturday’s trip to Crystal Palace.

“I’ll wait until they see fit,” said Bruce, when asked whether he expected to be holding further discussions with the new owners this week. “We’ll see what they’re going to say. You’d better ask somebody else that.”

Prior to kick-off, supporters had cheered al-Rumayyan’s arrival, with a giant banner being unfurled in the Gallowgate End to mark the change in ownership.

“We’ve seen St James’ Park like we always remember it,” said Bruce. “It was a fantastic atmosphere, and to get off to the start we got off to was great for everybody concerned.

“But unfortunately, in their first attack, we’ve conceded. We needed to build on that, but unfortunately we didn’t."