Matt Ritchie apologises following training-ground bust-up with Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce

Reports suggest midfielder called his boss 'a coward' following comments made by Bruce after 1-1 draw with Wolves

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The pressure on Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce has intensified after reports emerged of a training-ground confrontation with midfielder Matt Ritchie.

Newcastle currently find themselves deep in relegation trouble with 12 games of the Premier League season remaining, having won just two of their last 15 league matches to slip to within three points of the relegation zone.

They will drop into the bottom three if Fulham manage to beat Tottenham Hotspur at Craven Cottage on Thursday evening.

A report in the Daily Mail suggested that Ritchie, who moved to the club from Bournemouth for £12 million in 2016, called Bruce "a coward" during the bust-up which followed comments by his manager after the 1-1 draw with Wolves on Saturday.

In a post-match interview, Bruce suggested the midfielder had failed to pass on tactical information to his teammates quickly enough after coming on as a second-half substitute, which helped lead to Wolves' equaliser.

Defender Jamal Lewis, goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and striker Joelinton were also criticised by their manager.

The previous week, Karl Darlow was also said to be unhappy after finding out he was about to be dropped in favour of Dubravka for the Wolves game after reading about it first in the media.

Bruce said to Sky Sports after the draw at St James' Park: "Unfortunately, Matty didn't get the directions on quick enough, the instructions of how we were doing it [making the change]. We'll have to concede that one and make sure we do our instructions from the sideline."

This is thought to have infuriated Ritchie with the Daily Mail story suggesting the 31-year-old was involved in a furious row with Bruce at training on Tuesday.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Newcastle substitute Matt Ritchie is given instructions before coming on from coach Graeme Jones as manager Steve Bruce (r) looks on during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. James Park on February 27, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Newcastle substitute Matt Ritchie is given instructions from coach Graeme Jones before coming on during the 1-1 draw with Wolves. Getty

The club has not commented on the incident, but multiple British media outlets are reporting that the player has since apologised to players and staff for what he said and that the matter is now considered closed.

Ritchie was a key member of the team under Rafael Benitez but has slipped down the pecking order since Bruce's arrival.

He came close to leaving Newcastle in January but a move back to Bournemouth late in the transfer window fell through.

Bruce said at the time the player was "frustrated" at his lack of football and would "need to get his head down until the end of the season".

The Magpies head for 19th-placed West Brom on Sunday with leading scorer Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin, who have scored 16 of their 27 league goals to date this season, all out injured. The trio might not play again until April.