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Opinion

Steve Bruce wins Mike Ashley backing – Newcastle march backwards with new Shelvey and Ritchie deals

7 months ago
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Friday’s events have proved the growing Steve Bruce influence, with Mike Ashley backing his head coach on the club ‘moving forward’…

A report from Martin Hardy in The Times saying that his information is that now Steve Bruce ‘is making decisions and the managing director Lee Charnley and owner Mike Ashley are backing them.’

What a club.

Friday morning saw an official club announcement that they had agreed new contracts up to the end of June 2023 with both Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie.

The man from The Times saying that Steve Bruce had been pushing for the pair to be offered new contracts and that with his success in pushing them through, he has strengthened his position at the club, with the experienced players allies in Bruce’s growing power base.

Matt Ritchie will be just over two months short of turning 34 when his new extended contract ends in June 2023 and Jonjo Shelvey 31 when his new deal is also set to end.

Is this really progress and positively moving forward as so many of the press are slavishly reporting?

Steve Bruce dropped Shelvey after only two games this season, then after only one win in the first seven PL games and the situation looking increasingly desperate, Bruce chose to leave Shelvey on the bench and instead throw 19 year old Matty Longstaff in against Man Utd in his first ever PL match.

Matty Longstaff scored and was man of the match in that 1-0 win, he has scored two goals in six PL starts this season, Jonjo Shelvey scored two goals in his first two and a half PL seasons as a Newcastle player.

Matt Ritchie has only five PL goals with NUFC in almost three full PL seasons.

Jonjo Shelvey hit a bit of a hotspot out of nowhere and scored five PL goals so far this season for Newcastle, an anomaly in a career that has brought very few goals.

Indeed, not a lot of assists either, at least whilst with NUFC.

In almost three and a half PL seasons with Newcastle, Jonjo Shelvey has only seven PL assists, last year’s player of the season Salomon Rondon got seven assists (and 11 goals) in only 30 PL starts.

Steve Bruce accumulating/keeping players who don’t score or create goals.

My opinion is that this summer, with a year each left on their contracts, it should have been a case of thank you very much to Ritchie and Shelvey, having helped NUFC to get promotion in 2016/17 and then playing a certain part in Newcastle then keeping their Premier League status.

Hand on heart, are these really the players to take Newcastle United forward?

It all smacks of the usual Mike Ashley politics/shambles, now with the assistance of Steve Bruce, decisions made for all the wrong reasons.

In my first choice eleven even from the current squad, I don’t have either player in my team.

Even worse, I’m not sure Steve Bruce sees them that way either.

Certainly Matt Ritchie, temporary loan player Danny Rose would appear to be ahead of him getting a game on the left, whilst a similar story on the right wing where I guess Lazaro is ahead of Ritchie. I can’t really see Bentaleb and Shelvey fitting together either, so who knows what will end up as Steve Bruce’s choice for the rest of this season.

Surely you want to see your squad ever improving and you would have thought the plan would be for a major overhaul this summer, where players better than Ritchie and Shelvey would come in and be seen as first choice. Instead I see the loan players heading off and quite likely Matt Ritchie back as first choice somewhere in the team. This is organised chaos.

For me, the first choice central midfield is Sean Longstaff and Isaac Hayden and we should be trying to build a team with them in the engine room. Give them decent new contracts and find a way to get the best out of them with tactics, formation and other players to fit around them, including new signings. Or instead look to bring in better quality options ahead of them.

Instead, the new contracts announced today just make me think we will be seeing Hayden and both Longstaff brothers heading off this summer and leaving along with them will be a lot of hope. Two local lads coming through and not appreciated, expected to sign new contracts on a fraction of what bought in players are on in the first team.

I think we have seen enough of both Shelvey and Ritchie to know they aren’t the players we should be planning around for the future.

Ritchie is a very good Championship player who works hard in the Premier League but doesn’t really have the quality to be a first team regular.

Whilst Shelvey is totally unreliable and though he does have a certain amount of ability, we only see it in odd games and occasionally short runs of matches. His record of seven PL goals and seven PL assists in almost three and a half PL seasons’ worth at NUFC, works out on average at only around two goals and two assists each season. That is woeful when Shelvey is supposed to be Newcastle’s playmaker. He has no pace, minimal mobility and often is totally anonymous if the game conditions don’t suit, plus it is crazy when he is the club’s top earner and isn’t even a guaranteed first teamer.

This summer was surely the time for the team/squad to reinvent itself and at last move forward…but instead it appears we are marching backwards under Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce. What next, new contracts for Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll?

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