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Tyne Talk

Comment: Newcastle United fans told they have to judge Steve Bruce on results and not his ‘reputation’

3 years ago

Recruiting Steve Bruce is going about as quickly and smoothly as your typical Mike Ashley signing.

We have become very used to new players taking forever to be signed once interest becomes apparent, that is of course when Newcastle United do actually sign any players…

It is exactly a week now since we first heard of reported interest in Steve Bruce.

To say Newcastle fans were stunned would be a serious understatement.

That Steve Bruce was seen as the best candidate to succeed Rafa Benitez, surely not?

However, as always, when you come to reflect on any Mike Ashley decision you end up realising that based on everything that has gone before, you shouldn’t really be surprised.

Except in desperate times such as the two relegations, the choice of manager/head coach has come down to how willing they are to be part of Team Ashley. How willing and desperate they are to work within a system that they know is doomed to failure BUT it being an opportunity that is far above what they should be offered, judged on their CV.

There is a dismal lack of coverage/insight into this summer’s mess at Newcastle United in terms of national media.

Where once upon a time pretty much every national newspaper had somebody writing regularly on NUFC, the demands of modern day falling newspaper sales and advertising revenue, means that journalists who would once have spent most of their time on Newcastle United, now find themselves spread far more thinly and having to cover matters far further afield, as well as whatever time they can still spare on the Mike Ashley madness.

No wonder then that you got so much nonsense written by London-based journalists for the nationals, where they think the big debate amongst Newcastle fans is about Steve Bruce being a Geordie and having once managed Sunderland. Their belief being that we are all thinking, is the positive of Steve’s ‘Geordiness’ enough to overcome the fact he once led the Mackems? The truth of course being that neither of these things are deemed very important by 99% of Newcastle fans.

One of the few (locally based) national newspaper journalists still giving a decent amount of time to goings on at NUFC is Luke Edwards of The Telegraph.

However, he has taken an unexpected line on the Rafa departing and Steve Bruce set to arrive debate.

Firstly, when Rafa Benitez left, the man from The Telegraph surprisingly went with a script of it being very much shared blame between Mike Ashley and the departing manager as to why he had gone. On top of that, to this day Luke Edwards has been digging an ever deeper hole in continuing to insist that money was a massive factor in Rafa’s decision, as in, if Ashley had been prepared to up his wages more, that alone would have been enough to convince the Spaniard to stay. Fair to say he has taken some grief for this, especially on Twitter, but he continues to stick to his guns.

As for Steve Bruce, from his name first being  mentioned in connection with the job, for whatever reason, Luke Edwards has once again swam against the overwhelming tide of opinion, insisting that it wouldn’t be a terrible appointment.

It appears clear that at least part of this is due to a rapport which built up when Edwards would have covered the Mackems under Bruce. Which is fair enough, as if you are impressed by somebody and like them, it will help to convince you that they might have the skills/personality to be able to do a bigger job such as Newcastle United.

However, interesting to see in a spirited defence/positive spin on Steve Bruce this Tuesday morning, The Telegraph man has gone with a line of ‘fans must judge him on results not reputation’…

Luke Edwards writing in The Telegraph – The headline and a short extract:

Steve Bruce knows what awaits him at Newcastle but fans must judge him on results not reputation

‘He [Steve Bruce] knows he is fortunate to be given this chance but backs himself. And for those who still scream he is a bad manager, maybe consider the following.

Bruce was more successful at Wigan than Roberto Martinez, he got Birmingham City promoted twice, he guided Sunderland to their third highest Premier League finish, got Hull City promoted twice, kept them up for a year, qualified for Europe for the first time and took them to a FA Cup Final. He even saved Aston Villa from relegation in his first season and took them to the play off final at the end of that campaign.

He is not Benitez, not many are. But every manager must be judged on performances and results once they are in the job, not before. You cannot label an appointment a disaster before a game has been played.’

Surely though, it is a case with every manager and player that arrives, you can only judge somebody on what they have done before, that tells you whether it looks a good, bad or ugly choice.

By the time a manager gets to the age of 58, you surely have a very good idea of their strengths and limitations.

By coincidence, both Steve Bruce and Rafa Benitez were born in 1960, Rafa in the April and Bruce in the December.

It is ironic that in trying to big up Steve Bruce’s ‘achievements’ above, Luke Edwards actually just confirms to the rest of us why Steve Bruce is being recruited by Mike Ashley for all the wrong reasons.

In 20 or so years of management, he has got some clubs promoted. That is it really…and ‘saving’ Aston Villa from relegation to League One is getting really desperate.

We have used this table a fair few times this past week, how Steve Bruce has done in terms of points per game across his Premier league record and goals for and against.

It is desperate. Especially when compared to how far adrift he is of Pardew, JFK and McClaren, never mind KK and Rafa.

Another stat is that of all the managers to take charge of at least 250 Premier League games, only Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson have a win ratio of less than 30%.

When Graeme Souness got the job of replacing Sir Bobby Robson, it produced a similar reaction, he absolutely ruined that team and was useless, as Newcastle fans anticipated.

This is how it also feels with Steve Bruce replacing Rafa Benitez (JFK, Carver and McClaren were all predictable disasters as well. Whilst Pardew fluked that fifth finish but did inherit the basis of a very decent team (Krul, Coloccini, Simpson, Jonas, Ben Arfa, Tiote, Enrique) from Chris Hughton and then Graham Carr came up with some excellent signings in Ba and Cabaye on the cheap due to contract clauses, as well as that rare moment of ambition when Cisse arrived mid-season)and in fact Mike Ashley has already made a decent start on the job of destroying Rafa’s work, in allowing Rondon and Perez to go elsewhere and with everything else that has gone on (or not gone on), has totally demoralised the first team squad and fanbase.

From everything we have seen over the years, Newcastle fans overwhelmingly don’t see Steve Bruce having the qualities necessary to make the Newcastle job a success.

When you then factor in all the madcap extras that Mike Ashley adds in to hamper the running of the team and club, it is surely mission impossible for somebody of Bruce’s limitations.

Rafa Benitez [relatively] succeeded despite everything Ashley threw at him.

Even if Steve Bruce has Mike Ashley doing his best to ‘help’ him, the Steve McClaren disastrous shortlived era of handing [relatively] expensive players to a clueless manager with no say in who comes in or leaves, tells us exactly what we should expect if Bruce gets the job.

In my weaker moments I almost feel sorry for Steve Bruce in a very small way because on top of all of his limitations and lack of skills, Mike Ashley has orchestrated it so the new manager [head coach…] will have a couple of weeks and a couple of friendlies at the very most to prepare for the new season.

As for losing most of the goals from last season and exactly which new signings would actually be prepared to come here, even if Ashley suddenly allows the money to be spent the mind boggles as to exactly what much-needed quality, if any, can be added to this team/squad.


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