Would this represent ‘progress’ for Newcastle United under Steve Bruce?
The word “progress” has seemingly become the buzzword that has infiltrated every Steve Bruce press conference in recent times.
The manager repeatedly claims the squad is making “progress” this season.
Whilst, on Twitter, Facebook and over the phone with our friends and families, we all refute this claim, wondering what Steve Bruce means when he says he sees ‘signs of progress’…
There is undoubtedly an article to be written discussing this new phenomenon but for now, here is a sure-fire way for Bruce and his team to prove all the doubters wrong: beat Sheffield United and do it comfortably.
You could say that last term Newcastle did achieve this feat, but, delve a little deeper below the surface of these two games, and all wasn’t as simple as it may seem.
Newcastle, inexplicably, took six points from Chris Wilder’s side last season, doing it with a 5-0 aggregate score. In case anyone has forgotten last season’s clashes with The Blades, our first win came in December 2019, a 2-0 triumph at Bramall Lane and *that* Jonjo Shelvey goal.
Whilst that goal rightly drew headlines post-match, what may have been forgotten is the huge debt Newcastle owe Martin Dubravka for keeping them in the game. Saving a pair of Oli McBurnie headers and then a great stop to deny Billy Sharp when the game was poised at 1-0 were particular highlights of yet another Dubravka masterclass.
In the return fixture, the first during Project Restart, Newcastle won 3-0. This victory may sound comfortable but it was aided by John Egan’s red card minutes into the second-half. An uncharacteristic error from Dean Henderson also helped Newcastle on their way and despite still having chances to level the game, the Blades couldn’t take them and Newcastle eventually saw their numerical advantage pay dividends.
Comfortable? These games were certainly not. Very few wins under the current manager have been “comfortable” in fact. Only the demolition of Bournemouth at the end of last season springs to mind as a “comfortable” Premier League win. Even the triumphs this season have come with a huge degree of uncertainty, Burnley being the outlier which proves the rule.
It would be unfair to call the clash against Sheffield United a “season defining” game, we still have 21 games yet to play, but it may prove to be a “season defining” performance. Are we happy to do the bare minimum for victory, or are the team and manager aiming for something more than just the three points?
A victory, coupled with an impressive, front-foot performance that sees Newcastle control the game would go a long way to helping raise the spirits around the club. Certainly, it would help Steve Bruce’s claims that Newcastle are progressing as a club.
However, anything less than a win, and fears that this season could end in another relegation would be well and truly at the forefront of supporter’s minds.
An unimpressive victory would simply leave the club in purgatory yet again for another week. Neither going backwards, nor going forwards. Just sailing along, doing the bare minimum and somehow staying afloat.
If Steve Bruce and the players want to show fans they are making progress, they need to give us something to care and shout about. The cups are gone, we have nothing but the league left. Give us something to enjoy, give us entertainment, and show us the signs of progress we hear so much about.
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