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Steve Bruce wants to ‘mix with the elite’ as he gives reality check at Newcastle United

1 month ago
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In 12 days time Steve Bruce will have been at St James Park exactly a year.

Three weeks today he will complete his first season with Newcastle United.

Whether that proves to be the only season Steve Bruce experiences with NUFC, remains to be seen.

If the nightmare scenario of Mike Ashley remaining as owner became a reality, then Steve Bruce would almost certainly still be in charge at least for the 2020/21 season.

However, if ambition new owners complete the takeover, then a new face will surely be in charge.

Without the right players of course, no manager (or head coach…) can succeed.

Steve Bruce has been reflecting on Newcastle’s current squad and the players who have ensured survival and some stability since promotion three years ago, plus the ones who are needed if you hope to move up and ‘mix with the elite’…

Of the 14 players who started 20 or more Championship games in 2016/17, remarkably only four weren’t still on Newcastle’s books this season.

Only Gouffran, Diame, Anita and Perez had moved elsewhere, whilst Darlow, Clark, Dummett, Lascelles, Yedlin, Ritchie, Shelvey, Hayden, Gayle and Colback remained, though of course Colback has been simply seeing out his contract and not in the squad.

Certainly though the other nine are very much part of the matchday squad 18 when fit.

Rafa Benitez repeatedly talked up the side that he had built for promotion and said what a great job they were doing in the Premier League BUT he also repeatedly said that at some point you have to spend PL level cash on forward players who can make the difference, especially quick skilful players when getting play up the pitch.

Mike Ashley refused to allow this to happen and Rafa had to rely on loans such as Rondon and Kenedy, as well as budget buys, certainly by PL level spending on forwards, such as Joselu and Muto.

Steve Bruce says the same: ‘We have seen the best of Joelinton over the last few weeks – he’s looked more accomplished in a wide role and given me more food for thought. With Almiron and Allan [Saint-Maximin], we have to keep adding that bit of quality. Make no mistake, they are the ones who make the difference.’

Joelinton has done a little better but still looks nothing like a £40m+ player or a regular goalscorer BUT Almiron and ASM are the level of spending and quality of forward players that Rafa Benitez was referring to as essential.

In 2019 Mike Ashley belatedly allowed £80m to be spent on three attacking players but Rafa Benitez only got the benefit of nine PL starts from Almiron as he arrived on 31 January 2019 and Joelinton and ASM arrived weeks after the Spaniard had departed.

Relying on that 2016/17 Championship team can only last so long and new owners are desperately needed to increase the quality of the team and squad, as still overly relying on that Rafa team that was built to get out of the second tier, could prove disastrous unless we add more players of the level of ASM and Almiron.

Steve Bruce talking to Sky Sports about the players (Ritchie, Lascelles, Hayden, Shelvey etc) who are still at SJP from the promotion side:

“They’ve been here three or four years. For me, they epitomise the club.

“They know the club, what it’s like, they know the demands of what it takes to play here at Newcastle.

“The club needs that nucleus. It’s important that you keep it. How often do you see a club that gets promoted from the Championship and, all of a sudden, the team that’s got you there is dismantled very, very quickly?

“All of a sudden you can get yourself in a mess. I think it’s important with the core players here that we tap into that core.

“Certainly the team who got the club into the Premier League three years ago is still here, still playing and still rightly being rewarded with new contracts.”

Mixing with the elite:

“To mix with the elite is difficult these days, we have to take the club forward.

“The elite are still a long way off.

“We have seen the best of Joelinton over the last few weeks – he’s looked more accomplished in a wide role and given me more food for thought.

“With Almiron and Allan [Saint-Maximin], we have to keep adding that bit of quality.

“Make no mistake, they are the ones who make the difference.”

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