Steve Bruce insists he has never had a 'real fall-out' with Allan Saint-Maximin and the Newcastle United head coach has described such talk as 'fake news'.

Saint-Maximin has certainly kept Bruce on his toes since completing his £16.5m move from Nice in the summer of 2019 and the maverick has picked up a few fines along the way for wearing earrings at the club's training ground.

Bruce previously admitted that Saint-Maximin was a 'difficult one to manage', who 'tests you to the limit', but the Newcastle boss stressed the Frenchman was 'worth it' because of what he could do on the pitch.

After recovering from the energy-sapping after-effects of COVID-19, Saint-Maximin is due to return to action against Aston Villa on Saturday night and Bruce insists there has never been any issues between the pair as the 60-year-old channelled his inner Donald Trump.

"I think it has been written three or four times that I've had a fall-out with him," Bruce told reporters on Zoom. "I can honestly tell you in the 18 months I've been here, I've had no real fall-out with him at all.

"Where this comes from? I don't know. We've had to endure that a few times. It is simply fake news."

Although Saint-Maximin was not at his absolute best earlier in the campaign, Newcastle have certainly missed their talisman and his ability to take the Magpies up the field quickly.

Since Saint-Maximin last played for Newcastle, against Chelsea on November 21, the black-and-whites have won just two games and scored eight goals.

Saint-Maximin returned to full training this week and the 23-year-old looks set to take his place on the bench at Villa Park after what has been an extremely difficult couple of months for the fans' favourite.

"It's been really tough," Bruce said. "Look, we've all had to endure lockdowns and I'm sure you guys are finding it just as tough as everyone else.

"But, certainly, when you've had the problems that Allan has had with this . . . the one thing Allan wants to do is run around and play football. That gives him joy and it was good to see him in the last week or so because he's bounced around the training ground.

"He's just delighted to be given the go-ahead that he's OK and thankfully this virus hasn't scarred any of the organs which it attacked.

"Let's hope he can come and give us a spark because certainly the team needs it and needs that bit of flair, style, arrogance, swagger and pace that we have been missing at the top end of the pitch. Let's hope he comes and gives it straight away again."

Despite Newcastle's 3-0 defeat at Arsenal on Monday night, Bruce intends to stick with a similar approach against Villa after naming four forwards - Joelinton, Miguel Almiron, Andy Carroll and Callum Wilson - in his starting line-up at the Emirates.

Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez are both doubts for the trip to the Midlands but Fabian Schar could return to partner Jamaal Lascelles in the heart of defence.

Bruce became the first Newcastle manager in Premier League history to make eight changes to his side last time out and the Magpies' head coach will inevitably make further tweaks at Villa Park.

"I haven’t been able to pick my best 11 all season. You can’t pick them if they’re not fit or sick," Bruce added.

"We’ve had huge problems in terms of illness and injuries. Illness, in particular, has been the biggest one and I make no bones about it. We’re still suffering from it.

"We hope Allan is OK. I’d love to think he can come in and be 100% ready for tomorrow. Maybe not. We hope he is going to be OK but we are shooting in the dark a little bit.

"It’s been very difficult to manage, especially with the amount of games and the problems that this thing has caused."