Is this a rerun of the kind of legacy Alan Pardew benefited from at Newcastle United?
Alan Pardew was managing in League One when he was sacked by Southampton at the end of August 2010.
Little could he have imagined, even with his ego, that only 21 months later he would be crowned Premier League manager of the season.
A part of you still thinks ‘Did that really happen?’ but it did.
So looking back, how did a very average to poor manager end up receiving that PL manager of the year award in may 2012?
You probably have to travel back at least four years previous and the team that ended up relegated.
That Newcastle side should never have gone down in 2008/09 but Mike Ashley managed it somehow, with a series of crazy decisions. Top of those was preferring to work with the likes of Dennis Wise and Joe Kinnear, rather than Kevin Keegan, the NUFC legend and brilliant manager who was forced out.
Argentine internationals Fabricio Coloccini and Jonas Gutierrez were the unsuspecting duo who were brought into St James Park as the nonsense kicked off.
Moving forward, Chris Hughton was the man then given the job of resurrecting Newcastle’s fortunes after relegation and following Ashley treating another Newcastle legend, Alan Shearer, abysmally.
Hughton pulled everybody together and with loans and frees he produced a team and squad to get instant promotion as champions
As well as Coloccini and Jonas, Hughton added future Premier League winner Danny Simpson and also developed Tim Krul and Andy Carroll.
Then on promotion he introduced Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa to the club, as well as James Perch and Leon Best.
Mike Ashley was desperate to sack Chris Hughton as he’d found him not as easy to dictate to as he’d imagined. Despite Newcastle safely in mid-table and having beaten Sunderland 5-1 and won 1-0 at Arsenal only weeks before, Ashley sacked him.
However, there was a very decent talented group of key players at the club now, along with some good grafters.
Alan Pardew arrived only three months or so after being sacked in the third tier and I bet he couldn’t believe his luck.
He promised us Andy Carroll wouldn’t be sold and only days later he was indeed on his way, clear proof Pardew had zero say on transfers.
Despite that, at the end of the 2010/11 season he had Hughton’s (and others’) quality legacy of Krul, Coloccini, Simpson, Ben Arfa, Jonas and Tiote, as well as the likes of Steven and Ryan Taylor, Leon Best and James Perch, all of them good grafters at the time.
To this solid base, Graham Carr experienced his finest hour, learning of contract clauses he landed Cabaye for £4.5m and Ba on a free in summer 2011, the scene was now set, although we didn’t know it at the time.
Initially getting results largely down to a very good if budget defence (leaving Colocinni aside, less than £6m had been spent to have Simpson, Krul and the two Taylors in the back five), things really blossomed then going forward wen some ambition was shown and Papiss Cisse arrived in the January.
Ba, Cabaye, Cisse and Ben Arfa were a very talented group on their day, with then a spine of Krul, Coloccini and Tiote having stellar seasons.
Alan Pardew deserves some credit for the fifth place finish and manager of the year award of course – but with that group of players you can see why a very decent season could have been expected, despite the doubts over the quality of the manager.
Which brings us seven years forward and the arrival of Head Coach Steve Bruce, handed Rafa’s legacy, put together on a relatively tight budget under the NUFC owner.
I think for most of us, we would see Steve Bruce at a similar level to Alan Pardew as a manager (or Head Coach) but how does what he has inherited compare? Nobody is talking about a fifth place but should he, despite his limitations, be capable of at least a decent season?
Rafa has brought through Sean Longstaff and Lascelles Dummett and Shelvey were already here when the Spaniard arrived.
Then amongst the players he signed, Rafa Benitez has passed on Schar, Lejeune, Hayden, Almiron, Ritchie and Gayle.
On top of that, Steve Bruce has been handed Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin by whoever is making the decisions on signings now, as well as full-backs Jetro Willems on loan and Emil Krafth set to be signed imminently.
Does this set of players match up in any way to that which Alan Pardew had at his disposal?
I think most Newcastle fans would see the goalkeepers and centre-back options as at least a match for what we had in 2011/12.
There is decent potential with the centre midfield options, especially with Hayden and Longstaff. However, you keep looking at te squad and wondering where the goals are going to come from.
Rafa Benitez had made Newcastle really solid with that goalkeeper, defence and centre of midfield, then at last when Rondon, Perez and Almiron were put together, NUFC finally had a potentially very potent goal threat.
Back in 2011/12, the quartet of Ba (16), Cisse (13), Ben Arfa (5) and Cabaye (4) got 38 goals between them, 56 PL goals in total for the squad.
Once again, nobody expects to get close to that fifth place finish but is there enough goals to ensure we aren’t in the middle of a relegation struggle from day one?
We are relying on Joelinton to score double figures in a league season for the first time, Almiron to start knocking them in and get close to double figures, with ASM to at least match the six he scored in Ligue 1 last season.
Sean Longstaff can score from distance and we need him to be getting into goalscoring positions to get five or more and players such as Shelvey and Ritchie to be getting their share.
The real star quality isn’t there overall from 2011/12 but is there enough for Steve Bruce to get by without potential disaster, or even a little bit better.
We are heading into the unknown.
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]