After stating virus cases would stay confidential, Steve Bruce now praises Newcastle star who bounced back
Steve Bruce had repeatedly said he wouldn’t name any of the players or club staff who had tested positive for the virus.
On Friday ahead of the West Brom match the NUFC Head Coach repeated the message, saying the names of those who had been affected would remain confidential.
However, after a narrow 2-1 victory over West Brom in a game where both teams were poor and neither deserved to win, Steve Bruce immediately wanted to talk about one player who had been affected by the virus.
Steve Bruce full of praise for Isaac Hayden, saying the midfielder had been in bed for 10 days due to the virus and it was only on Monday when he knew the player would be able to play in this win over West Brom.
The Newcastle boss appearing to indicate that Hayden was one of the first to test positive for the virus, the player starting in the defeat to Chelsea on Saturday 21 November but then missing from training ground photos on the Wednesday (25 November) and then one of those missing from the matchday squad that beat Crystal Palace (27 November).
Whilst West Brom were absolutely feeble in attack, makeshift centre-back Isaac Hayden and partner Ciaran Clark were probably Newcastle’s best players.
Despite taking the lead in under 20 seconds, Steve Bruce bizarrely still ordered his team to defend so deep against what looks the weakest side in the whole division. This handed the initiative and a fair level of control to the Baggies who had 57% possession in that first-half, the ball constantly delivered into the box but more often than not Hayden or Clark clearing it.
Against any half decent attack Newcastle would very likely have had serious problems if playing as they did on Saturday but against West Brom they just about had enough. The two goals they scored were very good moves and finishes, totally out of keeping with the match.
Steve Bruce says he ‘didn’t want to make excuses’ but as usual did, blaming the virus impact for players tiring in the second half.
However, there was little difference between the two halves in reality and as soon as the goal went in in those opening seconds, there was next to no attempt at pressurising a very poor opposition who on the odd occasions when Newcastle did press them, looked likely to fall apart.
As it happens, despite talk of large numbers of players missing due to the virus, there were only two not in the squad who had been in the team that beat Palace in the previous game. Bruce starting again with eight of the nine whilst thankfully Hendrick was dropped to the bench and replaced by Matt Ritchie, the only two enforced changes were Hayden replacing Fernandez and Krafth coming in for Manquillo.
Ironically, it was Newcastle’s far superior strength in depth that eventually made the difference and turned a draw into three points. Whilst West Brom had to rely on a huffing and puffing Charlie Austin coming off the bench to try and give them some kind of an attacking edge, Steve Bruce had the luxury of bringing subs on who had both impressed at West Brom but who the Baggies hadn’t been capable of keeping longer-term. A superb Jacob Murphy cross met by arguably an even better Gayle header.
How Slaven Bilic must wish he had a striker of Gayle’s quality to call on this season.
Steve Bruce talking to BBC Radio 5 Live:
“Coronavirus ripped through us.
“I didn’t think I would have him [Isaac Hayden] until last Monday, so for him to get out of bed and produce a performance like that was great to see.
“Isaac was in bed for 10 days and inevitably the three I was checking were the three who had the virus.
“You can be negative but the fatigue is key to it and the magnitude and the way it ripped through everybody was frightening.
“We tried to play it down and we weren’t looking for any excuses but they’ve stuck together.
“I think we finished with three midfielders in the back four.
“I couldn’t be more pleased.
“With the problems we’ve had, the work they’ve done at home or parks or whatever, I couldn’t speak highly enough of them.
“Their effort and endeavour was spot on.
“I can’t give enough credit to the players and staff, and certainly the medical department.
“The decision to shut us down was absolutely spot on.
“I didn’t want to make excuses but I was expecting it [players to tire later in the game], especially from those who have had the virus.
“It was about watching them that had it. You are mindful of that of course.
“Fair play to them and thankfully they are OK but I couldn’t have wished for a better start.”
Stats from BBC Sport:
Newcastle 2 West Brom 1 – Saturday 12 December 3pm
Almiron 1, Gayle 82
(Half-time stats in brackets)
Possession was West Brom 54% (57%) Newcastle 46% (43%)
Total shots were West Brom 13 (9) Newcastle 12 (6)
Shots on target were West Brom 3 (1) Newcastle 7 (4)
Corners were West Brom 3 (2) Newcastle 4 (2)
Referee: Darren England
Darlow, Krafth (Murphy 80), Hayden, Clark, Lewis (Gayle 69), Shelvey, S Longstaff, Ritchie, Almiron (Yedlin 86), Joelinton, Wilson
Langley, M Longstaff, Carroll, Hendrick
(3 Positives and 3 Negatives from Newcastle 2 West Brom 1 – Read HERE)
(Slaven Bilic says he is hurting after Newcastle: ‘They put one cross in and they scored the winner’ – Read HERE)
(Newcastle 2 West Brom 1 – Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to Saturday’s victory – Read HERE)
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