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Opinion

Fabian Schar and Sean Longstaff awards sum up Steve Bruce’s influence

5 months ago
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The winners of the North East football writers’ 2019 player of the year awards were crowned on Sunday night, with Fabian Schar and Sean Longstaff taking the top two prizes.

The awards are strangely for a calendar year and the results were revealed in early January well ahead of last night’ dinner.

However, in reality the journalists make their choices based on what happened in the last season, rather than January-December.

Picking up the overall North East Football Writers Association player of the year 2019 award was Fabian Schar.

He was excellent last season after Rafa Benitez signed him for a bargain £3m in summer 2018 and the Swiss international as well as his excellent defensive displays, also scored some very valuable PL goals.

As for the young player of the year award, it was Sean Longstaff who was the winner, the older Longstaff brother started his first Premier League match in January 2019 and formed a great partnership with Isaac Hayden before injury prematurely ended his season.

The timing of the actual handing out of the awards couldn’t have been better/worse timed in terms of the irony of the current situation.

Steve Bruce sent out his team on Saturday with Sean Longstaff in a midfield two with Nabil Bentaleb and Fabian Schar the left one of three centre-backs.

Bruce’ tactics/formation saw Palace dominate and Longstaff and the very poor Bentaleb (why exactly did we sign him and drop Hayden…?) were overrun in the middle by Palace’ three midfielders, yet the head coach didn’t react.

As for Fabian Schar, he looked very uncomfortable playing on the left instead of his favoured right and gave away the free-kick that led to the goal. With Clark out injured, Lejeune would have been the natural choice to play left side.

To be honest though, this wasn’t a one-off.

Sean Longstaff thrived under Rafa Benitez but has gone back drastically under Steve Bruce. One of many players left bemused by Bruce’s tactical ideas and formation.

Fabian Schar should be an automatic choice as he is the one who can bring the ball out from the back. However, Steve Bruce has little interest in that, preferring the big boot up to an isolated Joelinton, or give it to ASM deep in his own half and hope he does something.

We have last season’s best north east player and young player, yet ahead of Saturday’s match, Fabian Schar had been on the bench in eight of the previous 14 Premier League games and Sean Longstaff on the bench in eight of the previous 13.

Which player has Steve Bruce improved this season?

The only one I can think of is Martin Dubravka, excellent to start with and due to all the action he has seen this season has got even better!

If anybody wondered about the importance of who is manager/head coach and their influence on players/team, we are now seeing the perfect illustration of that in these two seasons.

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