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Opinion

Steve Bruce needs to keep repeating the mantra ‘Be Prepared’ or face the consequences

10 months ago
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In 1907, Lieutenant General Robert Baden-Powell, a former British solider,to  first used the phrase ‘Be Prepared’ published in his book ‘Scouting For Boys’. The motto became synonymous with the boy scout movement which was formed two years later. Perhaps someone should send Steve Bruce a copy.

Since the victory over Crystal Palace on 21st December, Steve Bruce has been at pains to tell us all about the hectic fixture list and that players can’t be expected to play as much football over the festive period.

One glaring problem with that, is that other teams have the same problem.

Aside from the big boys who have large squads blessed with top quality right the way through them, Crystal Palace, Wolves, Everton, Watford and Southampton have all managed to negotiate the festive period and pick up points along the way. Having an in form striker no doubt helps.

If Bruce has any defence for yesterday’s shambles, it is that nobody could be prepared for what happened at the end of the first half. To lose four players through injury is certainly unprecedented. However, you have to look at why those injuries came about and could they have been prevented.

I can’t recall Rafa Benitez blaming injuries during his time here. In fact, I can’t recall many occurring in the first place.

Managing the squad and rotating players was a forte of the Spaniard and he was well known at Liverpool for going on runs of games where he never selected the same side from week to week. I don’t hear other managers mentioning it as often either, so why Steve Bruce?

He moaned yesterday that the side has played four games in ten days yet what he fails to mention is that six of our players have played 90 minutes or less over the last three games. Matt Longstaff, Andy Carroll, Dwight Gayle, Christian Atsu, Yoshinori Muto and Emile Krafth were the freshest players we had going into yesterday’s game. Only one started. You’re talking bulls..t Steve.

Managers can’t blame tiredness if they’ve had the opportunity to rotate the squad but not taken that opportunity.

I’ve stated elsewhere that playing Dwight Gayle WITH Andy Carroll is the only way to go and I’ll stand by that. Persisting with Joelinton is costing this team and pairing him with Yoshinori Muto against Leicester was an astonishing selection from Bruce. Giving the side every possible chance of scoring goals would be a big advantage.

And as for our once solid defence? It’s on the ropes every game, home or away. There is no respite. No outlet to relieve the pressure.

Yesterday, even before we were forced down to ten men when Fabian Schar went off, it was the usual 30% possession or less. It’s often like a classic training exercise for the opposition. Thank heavens Leicester eased off and/or didn’t have Jamie Vardy on the pitch, or the result would have been horrific.

Back on squad rotation, I’m not sure our team is suited to playing a flat back four but if it means dropping a centre back out of the firing line then that’s what Bruce must do. It’s called management. He can’t moan about the fixtures and injuries when he’s had games where he could have dropped/rested players.

Seeing Florian Lejeune yesterday was a sad sight. He’s a good player but he has been ran into the ground over the busiest time of the season and at the worst time of year for a player returning from a serious injury.

Normally I would say that that’s what you get when you employ someone as a Head Coach and not a manager but surely any idiot could spot the problem. Lejeune in particular was off the pace against Manchester United, puffing against Everton and during the first half against Leicester, I said to the guy next to me that he needed hauling off to save him from himself. Then the luck that Steve Bruce has carried thus far ran out big time.

As for that ‘Be Prepared’ scouts motto- who is in charge of our scouting? Who sees the players that the Head Coach is to have foisted on him? Miguel Almiron, Yoshinori Muto and Joelinton is easily one of the most costly and powder puff attacks I’ve ever seen committed to a Newcastle team sheet. To think that trio cost a reputed £70m is quite frankly staggering.

When I saw the team announced at Old Trafford I got the feeling that Bruce had all but given up the Manchester United game, picking Sean and Matty Longstaff in the middle ahead of Jonjo Shelvey and Isaac Hayden, this obviously with the hope of getting something against Everton.

Sure enough, they both returned to the starting line up against the Toffees along with Andy Carroll (who didn’t get on at Old Trafford) but Newcastle STILL lost both games. That’s the problem when you target games to get wins from, you often come unstuck.

I’ve said in the past that it often pays to be a lucky manager rather than a good one. Sadly, I’ll contradict myself here and say that luck will only carry you so far. Beating teams when you have very few shots (and even less possession) can’t last forever and sitting back and soaking up attack after attack without having anything regarding a forward line is like shooting fish in a barrel for any half decent side coming up against Newcastle.

This season’s problems can’t all be thrown at the door of Joelinton, or Steve Bruce. It’s a collective mess that was started when the previous manager was ousted in favour of a clown who was more than happy to take the job, despite the advice of high profile friends or basically anyone else he could of asked.

Believe me, this isn’t the end of the problems we will see this season, only the start. My advice to any optimistic or delusional fan is ‘Be Prepared’ for it because it’s happening before our very eyes.

From here we go to Rochdale where the team tasked to get knocked out will probably resemble a full on youth side. This is followed by Wolves and Everton away sandwiching Chelsea at St James Park to see out January. I’m not banking on seeing many (if any) points before going into a must win game against Norwich in February.

In the next week Steve Bruce needs to get some of his walking wounded back fit (forgo the cup tie) and start afresh against Wolves on Saturday week. Sadly, if he keeps on refusing to pick his best team, even having a fully fit squad available to him will bear little fruit.

Blaming fixture lists and injuries are a handy go to for any underachieving manager. Navigating such problems is the art of a good manager, something which history has shown is not Steve Bruce.

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