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Opinion

Why we shouldn’t be comparing Steve Bruce to Rafa Benitez and Alan Pardew

11 months ago
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I have written this article to explain why we shouldn’t be comparing Steve Bruce to the likes of Rafa Benitez, or even Alan Pardew, and who we should be comparing him (Bruce) to.

Many of our fans, as well as pundits and journalists, are repeatedly making comparisons between Bruce and our former managers.

Journalists and pundits routinely making the comparison between Bruce and Rafa Benitez, coming to the incorrect conclusions, whereas fans are largely trying to shift that comparison towards the likes of Pardew.

For me though, I think comparing Bruce to our former managers is unfair, I include Rafa Benitez in that, not just because it’s unfair on Rafa, but it is largely unfair on us fans.

Taking away the prospect of our takeover finally going ahead, you have to look at where we are at as a club and the direction we are heading in, and compare that with similar clubs right now.

Right now we are a club with an absent owner, he may be active in legal action to allegedly try and force through the takeover, but in regards to day to day management of the club, he is absent.

Newcastle United have a system where our scouting team and agent ties are dictating which players we sign, not the manager, and we aren’t expected to challenge the top six, or indeed even the top ten. Money is also an issue, we need to buy players on low fees, wages, or on loan.

Ok, so now that we have taken a look at where we are, I’m going to ask fans of other clubs, journalists and pundits included, if they would take Bruce at their club?

If the answer is yes, then the next question is  – what situation is your club in?

The reason I ask this is that I do not foresee any fan of any club in the Premiership or indeed higher levels of the Championship, honestly saying they would take Bruce as their manager.

In fact, the only fans of any club who I would honestly believe would take Bruce as their manager, is the section of supporters at Sheffield Wednesday who he didn’t annoy too much by leaving them to join us. You look at their position where they are currently in the bottom three of the Championship and you can see how they might have a point, considering he did do a reasonable job with them in his short spell there. However, their situation is nowhere near comparable to the situation at our club.

So now that we have looked at the situation our club is in, and who out there would honestly take Bruce, let us start making the comparisons between Bruce and other managers he deserves.

Two years ago, Steve Bruce was in charge of Aston Villa. Villa are a decent sized club but under Bruce they were in the Championship, playing uninspiring football, and not looking like they were going to head out of the Championship in the right direction. All of a sudden, largely thanks to a vegetable, the Villa owner realises that Bruce isn’t the answer and brings in a young up and coming coach with a positive outlook in play as manager. Now two years on and thanks to keeping their best player, and spending well, they are above us in the league and look the better team and are progressing.

Let us now look at Leeds, again, like Villa, they were well below us a few years ago, then they bring in a manager who is away from the PFM mood they usually take and all of a sudden Leeds are above us in the league, playing better football with possibly a worse set of players in their squad than ours and looking to move on.

Let us look at Southampton. They like us have an absent owner, are even guilty of selling their better players, not flush with cash, basically a South Coast version of us.

They though went abroad and like Villa and Leeds, turned their backs on the PFM approach and now they are playing good positive football, and taking advantage of this weird season where they are sitting high up in the league table, and are in the race for European football.

Now is the turn of Wolves. Once again, a few years ago they were below us in the league system. They got a takeover which makes them rich, but not rich enough that even we shouldn’t be competing with. Ok, so they have ties to a football agent which helps them get players, but even an Ashley owned NUFC should be able to offer competitive wages to their players and be competing for the same players. Again, like the clubs mentioned above, they turned their backs on PFMs and brought in a young hungry manager who wants to compete and plays more attractive football, and above all doesn’t settle for simply staying up.

Now let us look at Brentford. In the last 10 years they went from not having a pot to p.ss in, to having a set up where they constantly turn out good young player after another. They have an ambitious manager who is happy to use the players he’s been told too, and make it work. They were unlucky last year not to come up, but despite selling two of their key players they still look like coming up, and their reserves beat our first team as everyone called when the draw was made.

So who are the options we should be looking at?

Well then, let us look a bit left field.

John Herdman is a Geordie who worked his way up from becoming an academy coach at Sunderland, he helped develop a very young Jordan Henderson. Since then he went abroad and has developed both the New Zealand and Canadian ladies teams, winning two Olympic medals and a gold PanAm Games medal.

He now has the Canada’s men’s team as one of the favourites to qualify for the World Cup. Ok, he hasn’t achieved much at club level, but at developing players he has proved that he is more than capable, and if you want to bring a Newcastle fan in as a manager, then he should be the type of manager we should be looking to bring in.

If we were to get our takeover, I would honestly be going out to bring him in to head our academy, but under Ashley he could be a solid managerial appointment.

Staying in Canada, you have Bobby Smyrniotis.

He has worked as a coach in Europe, then went back home to Canada and set up his own youth academy that has produced some of Canada’s young players. His academy was the catalyst for Canada forging their own professional Soccer League, the Canadian Premier League (CPL). His achievements earned him the Forge FC manager’s job where he won them the first two CPLs and had them playing free flowing attacking football. If you want a manger who will allow the likes of ASM and Almirón have the ability to do what they do best, then this guy is your man.

Why isn’t someone like him given a chance instead of Bruce?

In Canada, you also have Tommy Wheeldon JR, who is a hybrid of Herdman and Smyrniotis. Coming from Liverpool, he helped set up an academy in Calgary and then got the Calgary job, where he has led them to second in their first season, actually finishing above Smyrniotis’ Forge FC, but losing in the play-offs. His squad is less gung ho than Forge’s, but very organised, and stable defensively.

I’m not saying any of those should be given our job.

However, it is difficult to watch Bruce’s football and wonder why these young managers who have worked so hard and never had the opportunity at this level, then look at Bruce’s teams and realise the only reason why he keeps getting the job is because he once knew Sir Alex Ferguson.

Any one one of those would offer much more than Bruce would in the role, and the same can be said for so many other coaches elsewhere in the world.

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