Steve Bruce says coronavirus has "wiped out" two Newcastle stars for weeks

Steve Bruce issued a heartfelt plea about coronavirus – after revealing two Newcastle United stars have been “wiped out” by the illness.

The Newcastle boss welcomed covid victim Federico Fernandez back to his squad for the trip to Leeds, but will make a few changes to protect “fatigued” players who had already recovered and played against West Brom.

Bruce says he has been left “shocked” by how quickly the virus spreads once it takes hold in a close knit group, saying it has “skittled” his squad in the last six weeks.

Newcastle still have Jamaal Lascelles, Javier Manquillo, Fabian Schar and Allan Saint-Maximin out, but the club will not confirm who has tested positive, unless a player reveals they have been ill.

Bruce said: “If you ever under-estimate this thing, don't. There are two players it is having a bad effect on, and these are elite athletes.

“The big thing is fatigue, and the way it has left you feeling tired. The players are fit, healthy and young, and for the vast majority, it washes over them.

“But unfortunately, for two of the players in particular, it has not washed over them.

“I think it would be wrong for me to go into too much detail, but they’re not going to be ready for at least another couple of weeks.

“Isaac Hayden has gone public, so I can speak on his behalf, and he was in bed for a week. Arguably, he’s our fittest player.

“It has no boundaries. I think being young and fit helps you recover better, but some of the things that happened really shocked me.

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“From having nobody, the way it then skittled through everybody was quite scary. The decision from Brian from the Premier League, who has been here every day monitoring it since March, and the doctor and medical staff to shut us down was crucial, otherwise God knows what it would have done.

“It would have ripped through everybody I would have thought, the way it was going. It was ridiculous.”

Bruce still reckons clubs should be able to bring fans back to games saying the scenes of people Christmas shopping are far more risky than supporters spaced out watching a match.

“You've more chance getting infected going shopping in Northumberland Street than going to St James' Park,” he added.

“There have been no new positives here in last 6 days.

“Fernandez revealed himself that he had the virus but is now negative.

“I will change two or three because of the after effects, and the games coming up. We were light at the back. It seems to be defenders where the problems are.

“Ryan Fraser has been out with injury and has trained for a week and a bit. He is fully fit and read to go. He is like a new signing He has had to wait patiently.”

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