Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce is understood to have been involved in a physical confrontation with winger Matt Ritchie after the Scot called him a 'coward'.
Ritchie was one of four players Bruce publicly called out after Saturday's 1-1 draw with Wolves, blaming the 31-year-old for not relaying instructions quick enough following his introduction, after which Wolves scored almost immediately.
“The direction, which unfortunately Matt Ritchie didn’t get on quick enough. It was the instructions of how we were doing it," Bruce said (via the Northern Echo). "That was a frustration for all of us, but we’ll have to concede that one and make sure our instructions get on. We’ll do it from the sidelines next time."
According to the Daily Mail, Ritchie was less than impressed with Bruce's decision to call him out alongside Jamal Lewis, Martin Dubravka and Joelinton, and he called the boss after the game to try and address the issue, only to be told he would be spoken to on Tuesday.
Ritchie then refused to meet Bruce in his office, claiming he would not speak to the 'coward' again. News of his comments reached Bruce, who is alleged to have come charging out of his office for a furious confrontation with the player.
It's said that Bruce was shoulder-barging into Ritchie while asking how he could treat him like that after all the boss had done for him, to which Ritchie responded: "You've done f**k all for me."
Bruce is then alleged to have sarcastically asked if Ritchie was going to run to director Lee Charnley about the issue - a perceived reference to claims that players have gone directly to the hierarchy to voice their concerns over life under Bruce. Perhaps coincidentally, Charnley was at training on Wednesday.
Ritchie has apologised to his team-mates and the club staff for his behaviour, but it is believed that a number of players have sided with the Scot and have been left unimpressed with Bruce's willingness to throw them under the bus.
Some have even accused Bruce of being behind a series of training-ground leaks, including recent reports that goalkeeper Karl Darlow was set to be dropped. Bruce had criticised Darlow in the media and had not told him of the decision to bench him before it was released to the media.
It is suggested that the atmosphere in the dressing room has become toxic. Many players want Bruce gone and are privately laughing at the manager in WhatsApp messages, with most frustrated by his refusal to take any blame for the team's current struggles.
Newcastle currently sit 17th in the Premier League table, three points clear of the relegation zone, but their chances of survival have been dealt an enormous blow with the news that both Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron are set for lengthy spells on the sidelines through injury.
Any talks of a potential takeover have since been halted, with the club's focus solely on the relegation battle into which they have slowly stumbled.