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Opinion

Steve Bruce refuses to name points safety target but this is what it is

8 months ago
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Steve Bruce has 90 days left to save Newcastle United’s season.

On that 90th day, Newcastle United travel to Fulham for a 4pm appointment at Craven Cottage, by 6pm NUFC fans will know their fate.

Of course, we could and should know well before that date, shouldn’t we?

After losing at Old Trafford, Steve Bruce had this message for Newcastle fans: ‘My message to the supporters is, I’m convinced we’ll be okay. I am convinced we will be safe.’

What a relief!

Mike Ashley, Lee Charnley and the rest of the owner’s minions might think there is no need to inform or reassure Newcastle fans about ANY concerns they might have about their club BUT thankfully we have Steve Bruce to rely on.

As to how Newcastle United are going to be ‘okay’, Steve Bruce even let us in on his carefully constructed plan towards being ‘safe’.

The NUFC Head Coach declaring: ‘We need to win a few games. We have to get to that magical points mark, whatever it is.’

Hmmm, that is not quite so reassuring.

In these past 16 Newcastle matches (2 wins, 2 draws, 12 defeats), Steve Bruce hasn’t known how to ‘win a few games’, so with only 13 games to go, why would we trust his message that we will ‘win a few games’ amongst that lucky thirteen that are coming up?

On that subject, Steve Bruce claims: ‘we have games coming up, where we think we can take points’, hmmm.

Bruce has been keen to go to great lengths as to how difficult it has been having to play both Chelsea and Man Utd one after the other. Pointing out the obvious, this run of 16 games hasn’t all been against top five clubs and indeed, the reality is that there is only one really good team this season and that is Man City.

This is how the Premier League table looks on Monday morning:

In these past 16 games, the majority of matches were against clubs who were tenth or lower in the Premier League (and Championship in the case of Brentford).

They included Newcastle totally outplayed and defeated by a Sheffield United team who had won none of their last 20 Premier League matches.

Whilst it was a total fluke that Newcastle United got a 1-1 home draw with Fulham during this run, Scott Parker’s team totally dominating and even down to ten men looked more likely to score.

It is sobering to think that if Fulham had won that game at St James Park as they fully deserved to, Newcastle United would already be in the bottom three.

So what is the points total that will keep Newcastle United safe, what message has Steve Bruce got as to what he and his players need to do: ‘We have to get to that magical points mark, whatever it is.’

Phew, that’s reassuring…not.

The stock answer for anybody down the years has always been getting to that 40 points as soon as possible.

No wonder Steve Bruce is shy of mentioning that, 15 points from the next 13 games would be needed for that, this from a Newcastle team that have picked up on 8 points in their last 14 PL matches.

So what number of points are needed to stay up this season and for Steve Bruce to aim for and ‘succeed’ in avoiding relegation?

Well being generous, we won’t say 40 points, we won’t even say 39, not even 38. Instead, doing the job of saying it for him, Steve Bruce needs to get at least 37 points, in my opinion.

Fulham have picked up 14 points from their last 13 games, so if they replicate that in the final 13, it would give them 36 points and if course they currently have a better goal difference than Newcastle United.

There is always a chance of course of another club completely failing to pick up many points in the remaining third of the season. However, if Brighton beat Palace at home tonight (8pm kick-off), they (Brighton) and all the other clubs apart from the bottom four, will have at least 28 points or more.

To reach that 37 points mark, none of them would need more than 9 points from 13 games (14 for some), with indeed only three of them (Palace, Brighton, Burnley) needing more than seven points to reach this lowly (37 points) target.

In the real / my world, I think you have to accept that if Newcastle United don’t end the season with more points than Fulham, we are going to be watching Championship football next season.

I find it amusing that the journalists and pundits still pushing out the Steve Bruce ‘nothing really to worry about’ message, are keen to say Fulham have a tough set of fixtures coming up.

The thing is, Fulham haven’t picked up their 14 points from 13 games due to a few lucky wins amongst a generally poor run of form and performances. Indeed, it has been anything but.

In their last 14 Premier League matches, Fulham have only lost three games and conceded 11 goals.

In Newcastle’s last 14 PL matches, Steve Bruce’s team have lost 10 and conceded 27 goals.

There is no reason to believe that for the rest of the season Fulham will dramatically change from being a team that struggles to score many goals but doesn’t concede many either. They have 13 different clubs left to play so clearly very few of those will be impossible to pick up any points.

The big question is whether Newcastle United can change.

Can Steve Bruce turn around form of a team that in their last 14 PL games have conceded for fun (27) and scored so few (12)?

It is surely such a worrying statistic that whilst Steve Bruce talks of performances being supposedly so much better recently, in the last eleven games only twice have Newcastle not conceded two or more goals.

Just look at that Premier League table above, Rafa Benitez creating a tight disciplined unit that conceded the seventh lowest number of goals in both 2017/18 and 2018/19 is a distant memory. Last season Steve Bruce turned it into the seventh worst AND after Sunday’s match, only West Brom have now conceded more than Newcastle this season. Frightening.

Even if Newcastle can start to score more regularly (only two clubs outside the bottom three have scored less…), there looks to be little prospect of stopping goals at the other end. As it stands at the minute, Newcastle appear to need to score twice to even stand a chance of a draw, a bit of a worry when NUFC have only managed two goals or more in 8 of the 25 PL games so far and in only 2 of the last 13!

Personally, I think Fulham will reach 36 points (or more) this season, so it follows that Newcastle United have to as well.

With that quirk of Fulham v Newcastle falling on the final day of the season, Scott Parker’s team only need to pick up 11 points from their next 12 games, to then still be able to reach 36 points if they beat Steve Bruce’s side in the last game.

Steve Bruce walked into Newcastle United saying battling relegation year after year was a situation that shouldn’t be happening, that finishing top ten each season should be the realistic aim as a minimum, that simply avoiding relegation cannot be seen as success.

Well, we are where we are and seemingly stuck with Steve Bruce, as Mike Ashley refuses to see the extra danger his employment brings to the situation.

Can Steve Bruce successfully as a minimum, get Newcastle United to 37 points and (probable / possible) safety?

I have very serious doubts on what I have seen and heard from him these past 19 months.

Steve Bruce speaking after Manchester United 3 Newcastle United 1:

“My message to the supporters is, I’m convinced we’ll be okay.

“Of course fans don’t want to see their team at the wrong end of the table, I totally understand that.

“We have a unique fan base, which makes us the club we have got, of course they are anxious.

“It has been a difficult week but we have games coming up, where we think we can take points.

“I am convinced we will be safe.

“There are six or seven teams looking over their shoulders.

“We need to win a few games.

“We have to get to that magical points mark, whatever it is.”

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