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Opinion

When you start to wonder whether Newcastle United losing might be for the best…

11 months ago
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This has got to stop.

You know things are bad as a football fan, when you decide that losing a game of football might actually be to the benefit of the team you support.

It goes against all your natural instincts and despite a certain grim satisfaction at the ineptitude of our performance against Sheffield United, as it surely edges Steve Bruce ever closer to the exit door, there was still a big part of me hoping we would be able to conjure a late equaliser.

Last night felt like a breaking point for Steve Bruce.

He trotted out his usual excuses after the game, much to the dismay of those listening or reading them. Bruce might be a fool but Newcastle United supporters aren’t and we know when someone is trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

His first claim was that he wanted to try and get Ryan Fraser and Sean Longstaff higher up the pitch but in his own words ‘that didn’t happen’. I saw absolutely no evidence of any attacking threat from us yesterday at any time during the match. I saw five defenders and four midfielders and an isolated Callum Wilson. There was no attacking intent even when we had 11 players on the pitch.

In fact, when Fraser got himself sent off, the only positive thought I could conjure was that it wouldn’t change our game plan at all. We would just have one less man behind the ball.

While some fans will blame Fraser for his sending off – and it was silly – he looked like a player so fed up with what he is being asked to do that frustration simply got the better of him. Remember, he has gone from working under Eddie Howe, a manager who tried to play with ambition and style, and did so successfully until their relegation last season, to a manager who plays the worst football I have witnessed during my time as a supporter of Newcastle United.

The penalty in my view was probably the correct decision, though it was frustrating at the time, and Bruce can hardly have any complaints given the VAR decisions that have gone in our favour against Spurs and Fulham this season.

He then claimed that apart from the recent shocking run of form, we’ve enjoyed a decent start to the season. I don’t think so Steve, 19 points from 17 games is not a good start to the season in anyone’s book.

The most damning thing watching the team play is the complete lack of any game plan or strategy.

A manager like Sean Dyche gets criticised for his style of play. However, at least Burnley have an identity, a way of playing that is designed to get the best out of the players he has available and gives his team the best chance of winning a football match.

Bruce sets his team up exactly the same way every game. Against opponents like Manchester City and Liverpool there is some logic to it…but against teams like Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United?

There is no excuse. A tally of four points from those three games tells its own sorry story. We should be going for the jugular in those games and instead we just sit back and hope that Callum Wilson will be able to conjure something out of nothing.

Having an identity buys a manager time and respect from supporters. Look at Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds.

They’ve had some shocking results this season but supporters are willing to forgive because he knows what he is doing, they are entertaining to watch and they still get results. I’d rather get results their way than the Bruce way, that’s for sure. I’d also rather lose 6-1 like Leeds did at Manchester United but have a real go, than lose 1-0 and go down without a fight.

It was the same during Rafa’s time at the club. There were some shocking periods of form during his time as manager but the fans always stuck with him because we knew there was a plan. We had faith because he had proven himself time and again on world football’s biggest stage. We knew that we would always turn the corner with him in charge.

Bruce’s attitude reflects a lack of confidence in the players which I don’t think is justified. This squad is better than it is currently performing in my opinion. There has been talent, commitment and desire evident in the past, but they look like they’ve forgotten how to win a game because their manager doesn’t know how.

It can be easy to blame the players, and they deserve some of the stick that is coming their way after recent performances, but the manager is the problem. Bruce’s negativity has infected the dressing room. If it was simply down to the team on the pitch then no clubs would need a manager at all.

Many will say ‘well who would you have instead of Bruce?’ and my answer to them would be ‘anyone’. At this point I really don’t think we could do any worse.

Results are going only one way and despite the current cushion we have to the bottom three, if Bruce is still in charge come the final game of the season, we will be destined for the Championship.

I want to finish this article by talking about Sean Longstaff, who is currently a shadow of the player we all know he has the talent to be. I watch Longstaff on the pitch and he looks lost, desperate for a manager or a coach to give him some guidance to get his career back on an upward trajectory. Longstaff’s loss of form is endemic of the Bruce regime. I can’t name a single player who has improved during his time at the club, surely one of the most damning aspects of his reign. There is a litany of players whose careers have nosedived over the last 18 months.

In the past when we’ve tried to oust Ashley, there have been many campaigns to show our dissent to the regime by not turning up. If it carries on like this, Ashley won’t be able to give the tickets away when the time comes for us to be allowed back to football matches.

The wider media would have you believe that Newcastle United fans think we should be challenging for the top four every season.

That’s rubbish.

All I want to see is 11 players on the pitch, being managed and coached competently and trying to win a football match.

Surely that isn’t too much to ask because this has got to stop.

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