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Opinion

In Steve Bruce, we’ve actually ended up with a manager who is considerably worse than Steve McClaren

5 months ago
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What is it with the mad Mike Ashley approach to running Newcastle United?

We haven’t even kicked off yet and already I’m wishing the 2019/20 season was over.

Let’s get one thing out of the way, for everyone who says he won’t spend money (and I am one) let’s just put all the justifiable hatred to one side for a moment.

Mike Ashley HAS spent money on the Newcastle United team in the past, certainly not enough NET spend but spending all the same. The problem I have, is that his attitude of spending is all wrong and he SHOULD see it, it’s amazing that someone who has got where he has hasn’t heeded previous warnings. I for one can’t believe lessons haven’t been learned after numerous red flags during his now 12 years and counting ownership.

In 2008 he dispensed with Sam Allardyce who was loathed around these parts before he was even appointed and replaced him with fan favourite Kevin Keegan. A masterstroke if KK was backed and allowed to spend a little money on players he deemed suitable for Newcastle United. I’ll not go into the history of what happened but for whatever faults Kevin had as a manager, if he’d been allowed to buy and sell his own way and not had catastrophic interference from above, we wouldn’t have been relegated nine months later. What could have been indeed.

So a perfectly able manager and club legend was dispensed with without being allowed to actually build a team and then (via a couple of temporary managers) Alan Pardew rocked up and was given (gifted?) some excellently scouted players, players of such quality that even such a woefully limited egotist couldn’t fail to get a tune out of them. The highlights of that period were surely the acquisitions of Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and to a lesser extent Hatem Ben Arfa, proving that you CAN indeed get players for free (Ba) and with a little money, buy sufficient quality. Imagine if Keegan had got that lot? I’m sure he wouldn’t have sold the club to those players as a ‘stepping stone’.

In 2015 the club waited for Steve McClaren to be sacked from Derby and he was duly gifted a fortune in the transfer market and for why? Another Manager/Head Coach with very little ability was allowed (via Graham Carr) to get many players through the door for fantastic money (by this club’s standards anyway) with the view to selling them on for profit.

Now some worked out, some didn’t. Gini Wijnaldum and Aleksandar Mitrovic certainly made money for the club, Emanuel Riviere, Florian Thauvin and Remy Cabella did not. And therein lies the folly of the transfer policy at the club. Some will work, some won’t. So why does Ashley give talentless managers a fortune but leave better managers with an uphill task, especially when the policy nearly relegates the club each time and on two occasions, actually does?

In the meantime, Steve says that he has control over transfers – Yeah right! That’s what the club tells you. Maybe you should have had a word with Kevin Keegan before taking the job because as he found out, that’s not what they mean. If we are led to believe that Joelinton is coming in, I’ve read £40m+ could be spent on this one transfer. The trouble is, I and many others don’t believe that newly installed Head Coach Steve Bruce has the ability to get the best out of players.

Wolves apparently had an interest in the player but baulked when quoted the fee. Rafa Benitez was supposedly aware of the offer for him but had reservations that he was a couple of years away from being ready for the Premier League and wasn’t happy with the high price. The two stories certainly marry up and I for one would tread VERY carefully when paying that kind of money for a player who’s record on the continent isn’t particularly great anyway.

Giving Steve Bruce this sort of money would be like putting a maths teacher in charge of NASA Mission Control. Forcing a manager like Benitez to slum it out with the constraints he was working under here was like putting a NASA Mission Controller in charge of a maths class. It defies all logic and common sense.

If you go back for a few months, could that money allegedly earmarked for Joelinton not have been spent on Salomon Rondon FOR Rafa Benitez’s management, plus someone younger for a little less than £25m? That way the club could have had the best of both worlds, in that two players could have come in and you would have had one with potential and another with actual ready made ability.

It all could be a moot point as for starters I can’t see Ashley allowing that spend on one player. Not when other areas of the squad need buying for. The sale of Ayoze Perez doesn’t concern me as we have a player in Almiron that can play there and is potentially more mobile and creative. But that was all based on either keeping Rondon and Benitez.

Instead, the owner has played his usual trick of chucking the cards up in the air and hoping for the best. If Steve Bruce’s managerial career so far is anything to go by, that won’t end well. To avoid the latest self inflicted disaster that is staring the club squarely in the face, multiple signings are needed and unbelievably we only have 19 days left to sort that minor problem out.

In a way I feel sorry for Bruce.

On one hand, he’s probably been sold a lie and if he hasn’t he’s very stupid to have walked away from great loyalty at Sheffield Wednesday and into a situation where everything is stacked against him and where there is little chance of it turning out alright.

On the other hand, if he is super confident that he can succeed under the conditions he will be under at NUFC then more fool him, he’ll deserve what happens.

Maybe he should have listened to his mate Alan Shearer and stayed well clear. Despite what I think of his managerial ability, I would have at least respected him for that.

The comparisons between Steve McClaren and Steve Bruce are actually quite interesting. Neither were wanted anywhere near the club but we got them anyway. McClaren was widely regarded as a great coach and his experience at Manchester United as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant stood him in decent stead. But crucially he couldn’t get anything out of the millions of pounds worth of talent that he was given and was a huge contributing factor in the club being relegated. Now ask yourselves, would you have reappointed McClaren this month as Newcastle manager? Of course you wouldn’t have, it would have been the most massive of backward steps.

Even by Mike Ashley’s chaotic standards, this summer has eclipsed whatever you could recall over the last 12 years, it’s just a shame that many of us called it pretty much exactly along the lines of how it’s panned out.

It will all become apparent how well we do as this season progresses with whichever players the club allow Bruce to work with. Replacing a manager of the calibre of Rafa Benitez to similar standard wasn’t going to be realistically achievable but looking at what they’ve achieved in their careers, in Steve Bruce, we have actually ended up with a manager who is considerably worse than Steve McClaren.

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