Steve Bruce believes equalling 'the mighty' Rafa Benitez's 13th-place finish last year should be deemed a 'success' and the Newcastle United head coach thinks it would be an 'achievement' if the Magpies 'aimed towards' the top half this season.

Bruce was parachuted into the hot seat just three-and-a-half weeks before the start of last season and a number of national outlets tipped the Magpies to go down.

While the comparisons are tedious, irrelevant and fail to take into account a host of factors, such as spending, Newcastle ultimately finished in 13th place, which is exactly where the black-and-whites ended up in Benitez's final season at the club.

Newcastle also accumulated the same number of points - 44 - as they did when they finished in 10th place in their first campaign back in the Premier League in 2018 but, again, the two situations are not entirely comparable.

When it comes to points, Newcastle got off to a reasonable start this season but Bruce's side have failed to win any of their last nine games in all competitions.

The black-and-whites are nervously looking over their shoulder in 15th place and Bruce was asked if a manager could be successful while Mike Ashley was the club's owner.

"I would ask the question: what do you gauge as success? I gauge success last year as matching Rafa's tally of points, of where we finished, because that's where we are at this particular moment," Bruce told reporters on Zoom.

"We are in the bottom half of the Premier League and we've been there for the best part of 15 years. What's realistic for where we are? In between 11th and 16th? Is that realistic?

"Can we aim towards the top 10? We're three or four points adrift of that. Would that be an achievement? In my eyes, probably yes.

"We are where we are and we try to keep edging towards where I want to take us, which is probably towards the top 10. I've said that since I've walked through the door.

"At this particular moment, we're four or five points off it and we're on a bad run so it's time to keep working hard and hope things change.

‘Rafa, who I have obviously heard a lot of and have the hugest respect for, like all you have, where did he finish? He's a world-class manager.

"Where did he finish? Is that a success? Probably. We matched the mighty Rafa last year so we'll try and do as best we can again this year."

Since Ashley bought Newcastle in 2007, Newcastle have been relegated twice and the Magpies have finished in the top half of the Premier League on just three occasions.

The only time Newcastle have qualified for Europe under Ashley was back in 2012 when Alan Pardew's side finished in fifth place.