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Even if Newcastle United escape relegation this will be final Steve Bruce season at NUFC

4 weeks ago
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Newcastle United really are in the clarts at present and it seems everyone but the club knows it. As proclaimed by an article on The Mag on Thursday morning “When a Sunderland fan feels sorry for Newcastle fans because of Steve Bruce, you know you have a problem.”

Whilst I hardly think the writer spoke for all Mackems, this was a posting by a Sunderland fan outlining how and why they thought Head Coach Steve Bruce wasn’t right for Newcastle United, because of what they had witnessed while he was at their club over a decade ago.

If you thought that a decade in the game would automatically improve you as a person, as well as a manager, you’d be dead wrong.

As an aside, it’s also quite telling that Friday night’s opponents have also highlight through first hand experience how bad our current Head Coach is.

There’s no love lost between Aston Villa fans and ourselves but it’s quite interesting how both sets of supporters have such similar disdain for Bruce, especially considering that they of course were the origin story for the often referred to cabbage throwing incident.

Add into the equation that I can’t imagine Shefield Wednesday fans will look upon Bruce as the “Nice guy” that he’s portrayed as, due to he and his backroom staff all upping sticks and vacating the Hillsborough dugout.

That’s quite a few clubs that don’t hold him in any form of high regard. I suppose at least the South Yorkshire club got paid a fortune for losing such services.

That I didn’t perceive Bruce as being good enough for Newcastle United when his arrival at St James Park was first mooted back when Sir Bobby Robson was sacked in 2004 is a moot point. That I also didn’t regard him being up to scratch at any point in the intervening years is much more damning. Most managers get better even just by reputation, this one seems to get worse the more you think about things.

Cast your minds back to a newspaper article written in 2011 by Mackem favouring scribe Louise Taylor. I’ve talked about this before but it seems to get more and more pertinent with each passing week and set off numerous alarm bells and repetitions that we are seeing played out in front of our eyes.

The first comment that leaps out is when the author recalls a story when Bruce first took over at Sunderland and when asked if he would be using the Christmas Tree formation he replied “I’m not really into tactics.” Alarm bell number one. Doesn’t do tactics? Boy don’t we know that now at Newcastle.

Taylor goes on. “Arguably one of the principal reasons Bruce is no longer in charge at the Stadium of Light concerns his apparent inability to tweak formations or tactics during matches. Whenever a rival manager re-configured his system mid-game, Bruce invariably failed to come up with a counter measure.” Alarm bell number two.

It certainly echoes the recent claim from Bruce that he and his coaches “didn’t have time” to change the system in response to injuries to Callum Wilson, Alain Sant Maximin and Miguel Almiron. That to accommodate players Dwight Gayle, Andy Carroll and Jacob Murphy in their place would take too long and to not be attempted is out and out madness but now I can see evidence why he feels such a way, he’s not good enough to do it, simple as that.

A further remark that “Sunderland dropped points against supposedly weaker sides they really should have beaten” should resonate with Toon fans who now don’t know where the next win is coming from. If we can’t beat West Brom or Fulham, the former with the leakiest defence in the league and the latter when NUFC had an extra man, plus losing to bottom club Sheffield United, then I would endorse such comments that Bruce’s current Newcastle team do indeed drop too many points against “supposedly weaker sides they really should have beaten.” Alarm bell number three.

Furthermore Bruce’s, or any other manager’s, success will lie heavily in the transfer market and it’s here where results get very sketchy. Taylor highlights the following- “Including loans, 30 players were signed – several of whom have subsequently been moved on – during Bruce’s two-and-a-half years on Wearside. That represents an unsettling “churn” factor and hardly proved conducive to developing either a clear playing philosophy or strong team spirit.”

So far in well under two years as Newcastle manager, Bruce has seen 14 incoming transfers (including loans). A number of the loans have since departed having offered nothing to proceedings and the players that remain certainly don’t display a “clear playing philosophy.” Some (including me) would say this has gone massively backwards from the previous manager but that’s by the by. To not have any discernible style of play in nearly two years and with the amount of players that have been recruited, temporarily or permanently, is grossly negligent on the part of the manager. Alarm bell number four.

Now the bit about the “Strong team spirit” is interesting. I would certainly venture that the players have indeed been playing for Steve Bruce and it’s seemed a fairly happy camp, that is up until recently. The recent bust up between him and winger Matt Ritchie has highlighted a not so pleasant atmosphere, with reports that there are those that side with the manager and those that lean more to the line of Ritchie. More remarks from Louise Taylor highlight that he fell out with “quite a few players including Kenwyne Jones and Anton Ferdinand.” Alarm bell number five.

Back on the style of play and many of us Newcastle fans are left wondering first of all what it is…and secondly, when it’s going to bear fruit. Back to Taylor’s comments- “Always rather amorphous, if not downright scrappy, Sunderland’s high-tempo style lacked creativity, not to mention control, in central midfield. Unable to dictate play, the team frequently failed to press home early advantages.” Alarm bell number six. It’s like a mirror reading from what we’re witnessing at Newcastle.

And what about his eventual demise on Wearside? More eerily prophetic parallels from Taylor: “Something was clearly wrong because, as a season’s promising beginning subsided into a post-new year collapse, managerial excuses increasingly became a recurring, if self-destructive, theme,” and “It certainly did not play well with Sunderland fans when the crowd were blamed for harbouring overly great expectations . .” Alarm bell number seven.

Depressingly familiar but, and here’s the positive, this will NOT go on beyond this summer. I can predict with the utmost of confidence that some light at the end of our tunnel at least with regards to the manager will arrive at the end of this current season. Steve Bruce WON’T be manager of Newcastle United next season REGARDLESS of which division the club are playing in.

People often go on about how lucky Steve Bruce has been in his time as manager of Newcastle and while I would certainly concur, I feel the biggest slice of luck he has been afforded is about to run out. There is simply no way Bruce would still be in charge if fans had been still going to football stadiums up and down the country, let alone being allowed back into St James Park. So with that in mind (and without any positive prediction on any takeover that may or not be forthcoming) we can be sure that at least this latest charade will at least come to a head and be over by the summer.

It would take a very brave or a very stupid man to front out a full (or partially full) stadium of fans giving someone untold stick. Far be it from me to call Bruce a “coward” like it’s alleged Matt Ritchie did…but he could be forgiven if he didn’t want that sort of grief.

The trouble with that being that with Mike Ashley still in situ as owner, we will simply blunder on to the next catastrophe and managerial appointment. He never learns lessons or does what’s best for the club and therefore his investment, for if he did we wouldn’t have wound up with Bruce in the first place.

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