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Alan Shearer admits he has no option but to criticise his friend Steve Bruce

4 months ago
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When Steve Bruce was appointed by Mike Ashley in July 2019, one of the major sub-plots was the relationship between the new Newcastle United Head Coach and Alan Shearer.

The two of them are best friends.

Alan Shearer already having had experience of Mike Ashley, the NUFC owner shamefully treating both him (Alan Shearer) and Newcastle United’s other greatest living legend, Kevin Keegan.

When Steve Bruce got the job, Alan Shearer revealed that he had pleaded with his friend not to take it, that working for Mike Ashley wasn’t the route to happiness, success, job satisfaction…

For Newcastle fans, who had no personal relationship with Steve Bruce. They saw someone who wouldn’t be employed by any other Premier League club, a manager who has won nothing in his career, the worst PL record of any manager to manage the number of games he has (392 when appointed at NUFC, 447 now), someone who was now a permanent fixture in the Championship, somebody who Mike Ashley was appointing for all the wrong reasons (Steve Bruce so desperate he would take the job with any conditions attached, willing to be Ashley’s new patsy and say and do anything to deflect criticism of the owner, as well as Bruce so popular in football and with journalists which would further deflect criticism).

It turns out that Alan Shearer and rest of the fanbase were both right.

It has been painful to watch and I’m not just talking about watching the football served up by Steve Bruce.

I’m talking about our club legend Alan Shearer having been put in the position where after the latest embarrassing Newcastle United tactics, team selection and performance, he has to sit there on Match of The Day and talk about it.

Alan Shearer HAS criticised his mate for the absolute nonsense that he (Shearer) and the rest of the NUFC fanbase have been subjected to. However, a lot of it has been done indirectly (not naming Steve Bruce but clearly it is he responsible when Shearer has criticised tactics etc), plus you can’t deny, if it had been somebody that Alan Shearer had no connection / friendship with, the criticism would have been far stronger and happened earlier. Alan Shearer may be a football God for us all but he is still only human like the rest of us, it is only human nature to even subconsciously pull back to some extent when it is somebody that you like and respect in your personal life.

However, we have now had Tuesday night.

Fair to say that long long before the game at Bramall Lane, the vast majority of Newcastle fans had made their mind up about the current situation at St James Park and Steve Bruce’s role in it, within the bigger mess of course which is the ongoing shambles so long as Mike Ashley remains as owner.

However, after that performance against Sheffield United and the approach to the match, now even Alan Shearer has felt the need to make clear he sees Steve Bruce needing to take a significant part of the blame.

Alan Shearer has a column in The Athletic and below are a few small extracts from a lengthy and brilliant dissection by the former number nine of the issues at Newcastle United.

He rightly points to how shocking the running of the club is and correctly points to the shameful way Steve Bruce has been left totally exposed by the club hierarchy, given absolutely no public support or help by Mike Ashley and his minions.

Lee Charnley in August 2019, before Steve Bruce had taken charge of a single match, said that he and Ashley accepted that they had failed the fans in not properly and professionally communicating with the Newcastle supporters. He / they promised that this would now change, in particular, he / they stated that it had been totally unacceptable for the club to put all the responsibility on the manager (or head coach) to talk about every single issue at the football club.

Eighteen months later and Alan Shearer spells out in his column in The Athletic, saying about Steve Bruce: ‘I can’t believe he’s having to deal with questions about furloughing staff, giving tickets away, about coronavirus, about a takeover. These shouldn’t be issues for the manager. It’s a tough and lonely enough job as it is. The point is, he’s on his own.’

As for Steve Bruce, I think it is quite clear that like the rest of the Newcastle fans, though for (mainly) very different reasons, Alan Shearer would love to see his friend resign from this mess of a football club as quickly as possible. Steve Bruce said after Tuesday’s shambles that he refused to resign and that he would have to be sacked, the rest of the Newcastle fanbase quickly taking that as meaning Bruce will hang on until the bitter end to get a massive pay-off.

Sky Sports have said that Mike Ashley is still happy with Steve Bruce and doesn’t see Newcastle United in a relegation battle at the moment. Fulham last night made it five games without defeat as they got a deserved point at Tottenham, making it now a seven points gap between NUFC and the bottom three.

However, when your team has gone eight games without a win and ten hours scoring just one goal, capped off by that embarrassing and feeble night at Bramall Lane, Mike Ashley may be revisiting this issue earlier than he thinks.

Steve Bruce has now been in the job 18 months, whether he survives the remaining 18 months of his NUFC contract remains to be seen…

Alan Shearer talking to The Athletic:

‘This hurts. It hurts the eyes, it hurts the heart and it hurts the soul.

Newcastle United are a difficult club; to watch, to be around and to manage…a club that simply exists.

What I saw against Sheffield United the other night was barely even that. Did anybody check for a pulse? Facing a team that are rock bottom of the Premier League, that had failed to win all season, Newcastle were bloody awful. There’s no getting away from it — that first-half was as bad as it gets, compounded when Ryan Fraser was sent off for two pathetic yellow cards, two nonsense tackles. The players have to take some responsibility, but there are no excuses.’

Steve Bruce under ‘massive’ pressure:

‘… it leaves Steve Bruce under massive pressure from an angry and anguished fanbase.

None of that helps my own discomfort because the head coach — yes, head coach not manager — is a friend of mine and the same goes for Steve Harper, the first-team coach. I know the human beings behind the titles and so I know how much they care, how desperate they are to do well, how much they and their families feel it, too. To repeat: Newcastle are a difficult club, largely because of their difficult owner, and if this difficult column has a point, it is to explain that difficultly and put it into context. Like I said, it hurts.’

Hope:

‘Newcastle supporters want hope. They want a bit of their club back, rather than this hollow, shallow, lifeless, soulless shell. That hope has gone and it has been ground out of them by an ownership that has different thoughts and ideas and different ambitions, if you can call it that. You need something to believe in, to buy into, a grand plan, a dream, a concept. You want it to represent you.

Newcastle do not do that and it’s probably lost them a generation of fans, people who have thought over the last decade and more, ‘I’ve had enough of this. I don’t enjoy it any more’. All of us know men and women like that. At a club which is known for its loud and passionate support, 10,000 part season tickets were given away last season. I tell myself not to — there is no worth in looking back — but it’s hard not to contrast it with the (relatively) recent past, when a hoard clamoured to get in.’

Having to be critical of one of your best friends:

‘In most regards, I’m the same as any other fan, barring that I’ve got a couple of pals on the coaching staff. I’m longing for us to do well, to bring in reinforcements, for some legs in midfield, for some attacking football, that bit of creativity. I’m well aware that everything I say about the club is magnified because of my history there, but Steve has chosen one life and I’ve chosen another and I also have to be critical and analytical and true to myself.

Steve did say he was going to take the cups seriously and he has put stronger teams out, but this idea that getting to a couple of quarter-finals should be ranked as an achievement? Goodness me, that’s how it’s bad it’s become. And what didn’t help his cause is that performance against Championship Brentford when Newcastle went out so meekly, with no fight at all. The one or two positive signs — like getting further up the pitch — are blown away.

When it’s cr.p I’ll say it’s cr.p — I wouldn’t be doing my job otherwise — and Sheffield United was a dreadful night. I don’t think Newcastle have a brilliant squad, but for Chris Wilder’s team to have as much possession as they did, to look as good as they did, is not acceptable. It invites scrutiny and invites pressure and it fuels the anger. You have to accept the criticism coming your way and Steve has been in the game long enough to understand that.’

As I say, this Alan Shearer lengthy column of Newcastle United is a must read at The Athletic.

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