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Jan 18, 2020 at 5.30pm UK
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Steve Bruce has "no doubts" over Mike Ashley backing

:Headline: Steve Bruce has 'no doubts' over Mike Ashley backing:
The Magpies owner has loosened the purse strings in the last 12 months.

Steve Bruce is convinced Newcastle owner Mike Ashley wants to grow the club after sitting down with him to discuss January transfer business.

The pair met this week with half of the winter window having already passed, but head coach Bruce emerged confident that the Sports Direct magnate will back him if the right player is available at the right price.

His mood was in stark contrast to that of predecessor Rafael Benitez during most of his transfer windows on Tyneside, with the Spaniard's efforts to secure investment in the squad repeatedly falling on deaf ears.

Asked if he trusted Ashley after their discussions ahead of Saturday's Premier League clash with Chelsea, Bruce replied: "Do I trust him? What a good question.

"I have no doubts, the way he's been with me, and I have no doubts what he's said has been 100 per cent right so far.

"He was very positive this week. We have to have a working relationship."

Newcastle, of course, remains for sale, as it has been for much of Ashley's near 13-year tenure, with a series of prospective buyers having failed to reach agreement.

Supporters have grown increasingly cynical about the sportswear tycoon's motives and although he has sanctioned significant spending in the last 12 months – Miguel Almiron, Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin alone cost a total of £81million – they are not expecting a major outlay this month.

However, Bruce insists that progress, rather than mere top-flight survival, is Ashley's aim.

He said: "I think he thinks it's the way forward for the club, like I do."

That said, Bruce will not be swayed from his determination only to recruit players who are better than the ones he already has despite an apparent need to strengthen up front, with Joelinton scoring just his second goal in 24 appearances in midweek and Dwight Gayle facing up to six weeks on the sidelines as Andy Carroll continues to struggle for fitness.

The 59-year-old, who is understood to have an interest in Inter Milan winger Valentino Lazaro, said: "I believe the addition of an Almiron or Saint-Maximin, that sort of level improves you. That is what we are looking for.

"If they're no better than what you've got here, what's the point of that?"

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