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Steve Bruce just couldn’t resist it…He had to mention Rafa Benitez

3 months ago
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Steve Bruce deserved a lot of praise on Saturday.

Just as he has fully deserved the criticism that has come his way at times this season.

The 3-2 victory over West Ham fully deserved for both Steve Bruce and his players.

Going into the match, West Ham fans and Newcastle supporters were arguing over whose side was worse.

The Hammers going into the game with no wins in five, whilst the Magpies had one win in their last eight and had only scored two goals in the last 10 hours of football.

That is one argument West Ham fans won yesterday, their side was most definitely the worst of the two teams on the day.

What does the game tell us about Newcastle United? Well, not a lot really.

The previous two wins in the first 11 games had come about via putting away pretty much the only serious shot on target against both Man Utd and Spurs, then relying on a resolute defence for a clean sheet.

Against West Ham, it was very different. Countless chances created but not taken in open play, after not scoring a single set-piece all season suddenly scoring from three of them, then giving away two poor goals at the back and almost gifting West Ham the most undeserved point of all time.

Newcastle were excellent in the first 51 minutes and West Ham were shocking, if Newcastle can create a similar number of chances and get wins over Bournemouth and Villa in the next two games, then there would be real confidence of having turned a corner.

Before and during the match I was in charge of The Mag’s Twitter account and  put out a few messages, just ahead of kick-off I said:

“Think once Sean Longstaff suspended, Bruce always going to pick Shelvey and drop Matty to the bench.

“Guaranteed a lot of Shelvey long balls today, can it open up West Ham or will it simply lose possession and overstretch Newcastle,
meaning the home dude continually running NUFC?”

Forgive the sausage fingers, instead of ‘dude’ it should have  read ‘side’ in that last sentence.

The reality of course was that West Ham weren’t running anyway in that opening 50 odd minutes, so zero chance of Newcastle ending up overstretched.

Jonjo Shelvey was allowed total freedom to do what he wants and predictably did so. His long and short balls dictating play and the front trio showing far far better in terms of keeping possession and allowing Newcastle to dictate play, until later on Steve Bruce reverted  to type and got his team to drop deep. Some other managers would do the same to see out a 3-0 win but with the Hammers so poor at the back, maybe NUFC should have kept that pressure up instead.

Sadly we won’t see any opposition defence quite so bad as West Ham’s were, this season, both in open play and on set-pieces. To cap it all their number two keeper Roberto was the very worst, to blame for the last two goals. I couldn’t help thinking that even if the two sides had swapped keepers, whether Newcastle would still have won, as I don’t think any way Dubravka would have let those in.

Still, you can only beat what is front of you and NUFC did that, which they should have done far more comfortably with the chances presented in open play.

Steve Bruce couldn’t help himself and had to bring up Rafa Benitez yet again, saying maybe one day the fans will get behind Bruce like they did Benitez.

The supporters get called for not moving on from Rafa and yet it is the  NUFC Head Coach who is the one repeatedly mentioning him.

The fact is that Rafa Benitez was treasured because he chose to come to NUFC despite managing at the very top these past 20 or so years, all six of his clubs previous to coming to NUFC are competing in the Champions League this season.

As for Steve Bruce, he has the worst Premier League record of any manager to have taken charge of 300 PL games and has taken the job on the same kind of terms as the likes of Pardew, Carver and McClaren. Accepting he has no say on transfers and more than willing to spout Ashley’s PR to the media.

So yes, he has to prove himself first and only by winning matches can he do that, winning games trumps everything else. Bruce has never managed in the Champions League, has won no trophies and  spent most of the last decade in the  Championship. How else were Newcastle fans going to greet his appointment?

He needs to tune down the Ashley PR stuff, take wins a bit more graciously and deliver a lot more of them (victories).

At the moment, any win is put forward as ‘proof’ by Steve Bruce and friendly media that he is/was the right choice, we need to see a lot more than we have seen so far to justify that.

Fans have been massively supportive at games when it would have been easy to kick off at some of the poor negative displays.

Steve Bruce also said after yesterday’s win: ‘Fair play to my coaches who worked on a set-piece routine that when it gets delivered like it did, you have to say well done to them. With all the criticism they have had I was delighted the plan came off.’

Bruce says it as though the criticism hadn’t been deserved. Yet before West ham, Newcastle hadn’t scored from a single set-piece in the first 11 games and had conceded from set-pieces a fair few times.

Great to see that change yesterday but once again, far more needed.

Steve Bruce talking after Newcastle’s 3-2 win at West Ham:

“I am going to try and enjoy it and hopefully in time, with results, they (Newcastle fans) will get behind me as much as they did Rafa (Benitez).

“That would be nice…

“I have said I am not going to be everybody’s cup of tea but the one thing I want to do is take the club forward and enjoy the challenge of managing Newcastle United.

“Hopefully, with time and a few more results the supporters will maybe change their minds a bit.

“Some of them anyway.

“In terms of the way we played I was delighted to take West Ham on in their own backyard, it was good to see.

“Jonjo was brought in because of his ability to find a pass and his set-pieces.

“So today I’m not such a bad manager…

“It would have been easy to keep Matty in because he’s done really well but he (Shelvey) is a West Ham boy, so that has played on my mind.

“It should have been six and it wouldn’t have been unjust.

“We had some wonderful opportunities that we didn’t take and you wonder if it’s going to come back to bite you.

“It nearly did and we have got to be a bit more clinical.

“The front three were a threat but you have got to give them time, they will only get better.

“In a different way, we were fantastic at Tottenham and terrific when we beat Man United. I was delighted, away from home, to take West Ham on. That was good to see.

”Fair play to my coaches who worked on a set-piece routine that when it gets delivered like it did, you have to say well done to them.

“With all the criticism they have had I was delighted the plan came off.

“If we are going to be ultra-critical then we gave away a bad first goal but on the counter-attack we were always a threat.

“They are all young lads at the top of the pitch and we have paid a lot of money for them and those price tags bear on them. It’s a glimpse of what we can do and I was delighted with some of our forward play.

“It could have been slightly better and a little more easier, the first half in particular was the best we have played since I’ve been at the club.

“He (Allan Saint-Maximin) should have scored but you can see he is a handful and will get people off their backsides.

“He is that little bit of different, exciting and quick, if he can learn to be more clinical we will have a player on our hands.”

Stats from BBC Sport:

West Ham 2 Newcastle 3  – Saturday 2 November 3pm

Goals:

Newcastle United:

Clark 16, Fernandez 22, Shelvey 51

West Ham:

Balbuena 73, Snodgrass 90

(Half-time stats in brackets)

Possession was West Ham 69% (68%) Newcastle 31% (32%)

Total shots were West Ham 17 (5) Newcastle 12 (7)

Shots on target were West Ham 6 (2) Newcastle 9 (6)

Corners were West Ham 7 (5) Newcastle 3 (3)

Crowd: 59,907 (3,000 Newcastle)

Referee: Stuart Attwell

Newcastle team v West Ham:

Dubravka, Yedlin, Fernandez, Lascelles, Clark, Willems (Dummett 87), Hayden, Shelvey, Saint-Maximin (Atsu 77), Almiron, Joelinton (Carroll 89)

Unused Subs

Darlow, Krafth, Matty Longstaff, Gayle

(Manuel Pellegrini admits he can’t comprehend 3-2 Newcastle United defeat “I do not understand…” – Read HERE)

(West Ham 2 Newcastle 3 – Watch all 3 brilliant goals here in the official match highlights – Watch HERE)

(West Ham 2 Newcastle 3 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s win – Read HERE)

(Essential reading to see what Allan Saint-Maximin promised before West Ham 2 Newcastle 3 – Read HERE)

(Alan Shearer perfectly sums it up after Newcastle win 3-2 at West Ham! – Read HERE)

(West Ham 2 Newcastle 3 – NUFC could and should have won that by 5 or 6 but we’ll take it! – Read HERE)

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