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Opinion

Steve Bruce has now reached the Graeme Souness point of his reign at Newcastle United

4 weeks ago
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Well one thing is for sure with Newcastle United these days, football is most definitely off the menu.

Having finished work for the day on Wednesday, I opted to call in at the pub at 5pm and as there was a Newcastle United match coming up in half an hour, I thought I’d watch it.

That was my first mistake. Well actually, my first mistake was going to the pub in the first place, as these days it’s a faff on just getting in. Wearing a mask, using the track and trace app, sanitising your hands, sitting down and waiting for the chap behind the bar to come to your table, waiting for them to come back with your drink, before donning said mask to meander to the toilet and repeat the process all over again.

That was the less stressful part of the event as sitting through the 90 minutes that followed was the real feat of endurance.

I have heard off people who’ve watched every game how we’ve played thus far this season and it didn’t fill me with confidence that any entertainment was forthcoming but hey, it was Newport County and having dispatched Morecambe FC 7-0 in the previous round, I anticipated a relatively safe passage into the Quarter Finals and a fairly comfortable win to boot. This was a game against a League Two side after all.

You know when you used to watch a game of football involving a top tier club and a lower league side, the lower league side always used to seem plucky and hold their own for short periods, but inevitably succumb to persistent pressure and concede, it may take some time coming depending on exactly how plucky and tenacious the opposing side are, but after shipping the first goal they then usually lose by two or three as they chase the tie.

Well, despite the eventual result, Newport had the upper hand for much of the game and came within a whisker of the win. Results now, fortunately for some, often mask a multitude of sins.

When you’re a lower league side and you sit back and soak things up and try and hit superior sides on the break, you know you’re likely to concede due to the superior side’s, well, superiority. It’s the way most lower league sides set up against better sides. Usually this is because they are the obvious underdog and they naturally allow the alleged better side a bit of freedom to play and wear themselves out, get frustrated, lose their shape and momentum and start kicking both man and ball out of said frustration.

Well now, this seems to be a fair description of things regularly under Steve Bruce, only Newcastle United play like the underdog in every game.

“They play a certain way for a lower league team” – Steve Bruce

How dare he. How bloody dare he.

A “Certain way” What, like football? How many times can Bruce the Excuse come out with the same claptrap before even he has to admit that he looks stupid and ignorant? Week after week last season he would come out with how poor his side had played, how he was confident that he could change the style of play from his predecessor, as if that style wasn’t working or at best functional. Now we have an absolute mess where you can’t even work out what the game plan actually is. If you told me that the players are instructed to simply go out on the field and do their own thing I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised.

Against Newport, Newport were everything that Newcastle United weren’t. Their fans should be proud of their play, confident in what they were doing and their purpose. They knew they didn’t have the same quality as we allegedly have but they knew their jobs and their game plan. The same can’t be said of Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United. There is no plan B and plan A is utter sh.te.

Remember the dark days of the Graeme Souness era, where every game was so obviously leading up to his sacking, to the point where it even seemed like the manager himself was expecting it, only for something to happen that kept getting the man in the hot seat out of the clarts for another week. I remember the painful 2-2 draw against Middlesbrough at St James Park where only a last minute equaliser from Lee Clark saved his job. A scrappy 1-0 win against Mansfield at home in the FA Cup followed but the bigger picture was clear, the team had no style and no plan, a decent amount of quality and that was what got results from time to time. The problem was with the manager.

That’s the stage we are at now with Steve Bruce. Be it a last minute dodgy penalty against Spurs or a last minute equaliser and subsequent penalty shoot out victory against Newport. Forget what I said earlier about results masking a multitude of sins, they mask nothing more than the dross on the pitch if you have the misfortune to witness it. I doubt I’ll be making that mistake again any time soon.

Results will come (no, don’t laugh really they will) but they will be few and far between and will be interspersed with long periods of absolute rubbish and likely many defeats and with some big scores thrown into the bargain. Shocking stats have been the norm since Bruce took charge and for every disaster against Brighton we will see a “positive” result like the one attained down at Spurs.

Under Rafa Benitez, all but the seriously deluded knew that the poor displays were a means to an end. Be it keeping the score down, staying in the game and hopefully nicking enough points to achieve survival. Once Benitez was afforded Miguel Almiron and a fully fit Salomon Rondon, the side kicked on and finished the 2018/19 season on a high, with top six form. Now we have Steve Bruce with his own signings, a team that he’s stated that he’s happy with and bottom six form.

Don’t expect it to provoke an instant reaction from the owner. Despite the shocking performances and shoddy results, he’ll wait until it’s the absolute last minute to pull the trigger, if he does so at all. After all, he’s got his yes man in and he’s doing exactly as he’s told. The remit doesn’t involve football, simply coach the team and don’t rock the boat.

On the evidence of what I saw, the coaching is the usual substandard Steve Bruce that we all expected it would be and the ship is sinking…

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