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Opinion

Gardening leave for Steve Bruce?

3 weeks ago
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Right lads and lasses we’ve come to a tipping point with Newcastle United.

How it has taken this long God only knows but here we are, finally faced with the very real prospect of relegation.

People who know me, plus some casual observers on forums such as The Mag, see me as quite pessimistic. Not as bad as some probably think but I’d have to concede that I am. But with that in mind, all season long I’ve been banging the drum that Newcastle United (even with Steve Bruce in charge) will NOT go down. This is primarily because the bottom three have been awful and haven’t managed to overtake a Newcastle team that have won just two Premier League games in the last eighteen. Just let that sink in for a second. I am no longer banging that survival drum.

I could go into the history of why I don’t like Steve Bruce but I won’t, I have said it all before and most of you likely feel the same anyway, but I still clung onto the idea that Bruce would fluke enough points to ensure survival. I am no long clinging onto that philosophy.

Steve Bruce keeps banging on about an “accumulation of points” and whilst that does hold water, it’s hardly a revolutionary statement. It’s brainless to say it because that’s what every team is trying to do no matter what their final objective.

Right from the off on Saturday night, many alarm bells were ringing. The usual frustration of seeing Joelinton in the starting line up and the usual anger at seeing no strikers starting the game either, in yet another game that we all marked down as one of the more “winnable” ones we have left. This is now getting ridiculous. At best it’s gross incompetence ans at worst it’s tantamount to deliberately chucking games before they’ve even kicked off.

The familiar set up of merely playing for a point from the off was evident from the team sheet. Steve Bruce simply didn’t go with the intent of winning that game against Brighton.

Worse was to follow when after going through the first half of unproductive dirge, no attacking changes were made as we went a goal down, then again after going two goals down and again after going THREE goals down, STILL two strikers in Andy Carroll and Dwight Gayle sat on the bench. Incredible. Were we peppering Brighton’s goal? One shot on target all game suggests not.

Forget being simply incompetent, I would venture that Steve Bruce is playing for the sack. Still at least one shot on target marks progress from the 0-3 defeat against the same team back in September. Unfortunately that’s an aggregate defeat of 0-6 against struggling Brighton this season. Let THAT one sink in for a minute.

Above all else, Bruce’s time is certainly up. That is clear for all to see and even those that have insisted we stick with him are now (probably reluctantly) admitting defeat as there is no alternative to fall back on. The other argument of equalling “The Mighty Rafa” has long since sailed. Maybe he will actually beat Rafa Benitez and oversee a relegation single handed and with over £100m worth of spend to boot.

So what is the short-term solution?

Well judging by the noises coming out of St James Park on Sunday morning, it’s business as usual. Once again, incredible. The media have reported that Mike Ashley has no intention of sacking Steve Bruce and my instant reaction to that was, they had better prepare for the Championship then because at this rate, you won’t be disappointed.

It beggars belief that the club are happy with what they are seeing in front of their very eyes, that is unless they too are playing for deliberate relegation in the same way Bruce appears to be going about losing his job.

Now there IS a solution and it’s remarkably simple. IF the club do indeed want to remain in the Premier League then this solution will cost it and Mike Ashley nothing.

It’s blatantly obvious the club don’t want to sack Steve Bruce, I can’t understand why when relegation is as stake, but fair enough. With nine games left (one more than Fulham in 18th) we remain two points better off than they are with an inferior goal difference.

Crucially though, we are on an alarming slide and have allowed Fulham to get within touching distance of us. Echoes of the plummet the club went on during the days of John Carver ring very true but it’s the comparisons with the Steve McClaren tenure that have most semblance.

McClaren would have taken us down on the slide he oversaw as every game was getting worse. His last stand was a pitiful 3-1 home defeat against Bournemouth in March 2016. At least we had three shots on target and 49% possession that day.

Ashley left it too late that season as he did before in 2009 and only allowed McClaren’s successor Rafa Benitez 10 games to keep the club up. This season we have gone another game further down the road yet remarkably still in control of our own destiny.

That destiny should now NOT be in Steve Bruce’s hands. Take him out of the role, put him on gardening leave and leave Graeme Jones in charge and at least give the club a fighting chance of achieving survival. Doing nothing is not an option, we may still go down but this current predicament is only going one way at present.

Like I’ve said, this will cost the club nothing and will suit a club unwilling to pay a failing manager compensation, suit a manager who must know he’s on borrowed time and be a welcome release for a fan base seeing a club disintegrate and relegate itself before their very eyes.

Gardening leave and gardening leave NOW for Steve Bruce.

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