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Opinion

You didn’t need to be Nostradamus to predict this was going to happen with Newcastle United

1 month ago
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I told you, I said that Newcastle United were due a smacking somewhere along the line and last night it duly came.

Now I’ll grant you, I wasn’t alone and such a prediction was hardly of Nostradamus like proportions.

However, the caveat I had inserted a few weeks ago when I said we were due such a tonking, was that I said it wouldn’t come at the hands of a top club. The Liverpools and Manchester Citys may well have a field day but I was more concerned that a side in and around us would run riot and that’s what duly came to pass last night.

We all know since coming back up that Leeds United have been good going forward, we also know they are a bit suspect defensively. As one fan on The Mag last night said, it reminded them of the Newcastle United rise to the Premier League in ’93 when The Entertainers were thrust on the top division.

So why then did Steve Bruce decide to set the side up to soak up attack after attack against a side that, you know, can attack?

One look at the bench before the game hinted at the game plan, if indeed one existed. Stay in the game and bring the cavalry on with a little amount of time remaining. The trouble is, the stats during the game showed that once again (not for the first time under Steve Bruce) we were surrendering great swathes of possession and forcing Karl Darlow to save our skin, which he did / does admirably.

Bruce has all too frequently used luck as a tactic when it should be used sparingly and not relied upon to mask failings of both team and Head Coach. Still, if you can’t be talented and win games on merit…

It’s all well and good having Jonjo Shelvey, Andy Carroll, Dwight Gayle and Miguel Almiron on the bench, but the way we set up, it’s a big risk to expect them to come on and lead the charge when all game we’ve suffered a battering.

We’re lucky to still be in the game at that stage on a frequent basis and last night was no exception. So much for the “front foot football” promised by Bruce, it’s simply not there. The square pegs in round holes and playing players out of position doesn’t help either.

Now I haven’t seen many games this season, or since Bruce was installed, as I knew what to expect from his management style (if such a thing exists), but last night was different. I have Amazon Prime and despite being at work, I watched what I could. Please nobody tell management because getting a telling off after watching that display would be a double whammy. Mind you, they are also Newcastle United fans as well.

The odd flourish aside, we were chasing shadows and with the stats racking up in Leeds favour, the final scoreline was no surprise. The decisive third goal typified things for me with four Leeds players lining up to score in our own penalty area. As three became four and four became five in rapid succession, it sank in that this was the hammering I’d been predicting from a lower side for numerous weeks. This wasn’t the Manchester United side that did something very similar earlier in the season at St James Park but the feeling was the same- a not so great side with big weaknesses that we fail to exploit but with enough about them to fill their boots if they realise they can. Having said that, Brighton did the same at St James Park as well.

In recent weeks I’ve remained confident that we won’t be relegated and I still believe this to be so. But with West Brom recruiting the Houdini like talents of Sam Allardyce (still yet to be relegated as a top tier manager) that’s one more team to worry about than last week. Add into the mix that Arsenal can’t stay as bad as they have been without sacking Mikel Arteta and that makes two clubs below us that could soon be upwardly mobile and threatening.

I don’t want to go overboard on Steve Bruce because a) I’ve done that to death and b) he’s doing the best he can, which is unfortunately what I expected. But his best is laughably short at Premier league level. No tactics, no game management, bluffs through game to game in the hope that something unexpectedly clicks and would be out of his depth in a Newcastle United training ground paddling pool. I’ll leave it at that.

This team is not inspirational enough to believe that a mass glut of points will save us. Picking up a point here and there is what I was basing safety on and still believe that this will happen and I’m known for my pessimism.

Mind you, if displays like last night become the norm, as they did during the darkest days of both the Alan Pardew and Steve McClaren eras (and with our goal difference taking an infrequent battering), then safety will be a lot less certain than I previously thought…

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