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Opinion

Steve Bruce changes tune as Newcastle United fail to agree new contracts with key players

10 months ago
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It is 144 days since Steve Bruce took his first Newcastle United press conference ahead of a competitive match.

The mood wasn’t great as Newcastle fans  had been left reeling by the actions of Mike Ashley.

The  NUFC owner making no attempt to keep the club’s only two reliable goalscorers and reverting to a system where Mike Ashley himself had the final say on transfers, which had included the bizarre £40m signing of Joelinton to bring the necessary goals, even though his best previous league season was eight goals in the very weak Austrian league.

Most importantly, Mike Ashley had forced out Rafa Benitez and reverted once again to the lower leagues, bringing in a head coach so desperate for the job, he would agree to only have power over training and selecting  the team.

Clearly feeling the pressure and anger of Newcastle fans, the club and Steve Bruce included a rather bizarre subject in the head coach’s very first competitive match press conference.

Instead of talking about the match, Steve Bruce bizarrely insisted on new contracts for players being the big topic of discussion.

Despite making no effort over the entire summer to extend anybody’s contract, Steve Bruce suddenly insisted on the very eve of the first game, that new contracts were imminent with a host of key players, to ensure they felt properly rewarded and would of course be tied down for longer.

It looked a blatant/typical Ashley PR move, with Steve Bruce happy to read from the prepared script and so it has proved.

This is what Steve Bruce said on 9 August 2019 at the pre-Arsenal press conference:

“The club three years ago blew away the Championship.

“The players brought in were too good for the Championship.

“And those players, five or six of them, are still the nucleus of the squad.

“They deserve big credit and that is why I want to reward them (with new enhanced contracts).

“I have had a conversation with Lee Charnley and he feels exactly the same too.

“We’ll be sitting down and talking to four or five of them to make sure that cornerstone remains.

“It is vitally important that the ones who have been here, they deserve a big pat on the back.

“They deserve new deals which we need to tie them up to and I think Lee (Charnley) has already spoken to two or three.

“He (Isaac Hayden) has indicated he is willing to sit down and talk to us – I’m delighted of course.

“Him and Matt Ritchie and the goalkeeper and the captain (Jamaal Lascelles), there are probably four or five we want to talk to.”

We now find ourselves 144 days later and not a single player who was part of that Championship team and then came up and performed so well in the Premier League, has agreed a new contract.

The only player to sign a new contract has been Martin Dubravka and that came almost three months after Steve Bruce first insisted new contract were imminent in terms of being agreed with key players.

In countless interviews/press conferences since, Steve Bruce has continued to insist that new deals were set to be imminently announced and has named various other players also set to agree new deals but absolutely nothing has happened.

The only conclusion to draw is that either Newcastle United aren’t in reality making  any real effort to get players to sign new contracts and/or what they are offering is nowhere near good enough to persuade players to commit themselves further.

The club haven’t even been able to agree terms with 19 year old Matty Longstaff, it has now gone on for months with Steve Bruce claiming the younger Longstaff will sign a new deal but the reality now is that as from tomorrow (1 January) he can speak to other clubs (without needing Newcastle’s permission if they are from abroad) and agree a move, which would then happen in the summer and Newcastle would receive only £400,000 development compensation.

Meanwhile a number of other first team players are also seeing their contracts end in June 2020 and can also talk to other clubs as from tomorrow and organise free transfers to happen in the summer including players such as Fernandez and Manquillo, who have been Newcastle’s best defenders in recent games.

In total, 16 of Newcastle’s 26 man first team squad have contracts with 18 months or less to run.

Apart from Martin Dubravka after signing his extension, the other nine with more than 18 months to go, include Muto, Krafth and Joelinton…

Asked now yet again about the failure of the club to agree contracts with so many key players with not long to go on their contracts and especially ones who only have a few months to go, Steve Bruce appears to have changed his tune and not showing that past confidence that numerous new deals were going to be agree imminently.

On the eve of this January 2020 transfer window, Steve Bruce has said about the contract situation(s):

“It doesn’t concern me because it is what it is…

“Every player has that right now [to run their contracts down and leave].

“The Bosman ruling has been there for a lot of years now and it is their prerogative.

“If they are not happy with their deal or whatever…then okay we have to accept exactly what it is.

“That is the situation we’re in.”

Only five days after Steve Bruce was appointed, Mike Ashley completed his £40m purchase of Joelinton, yet 144 days after Steve Bruce was promising imminent new contracts agreed with key players who had proved they could do it in the Premier League, not one of them has agreed a new deal with Ashley and the club.

Worrying times.

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