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Steve Bruce set to take unnecessary risks today as so desperate to match the ‘Mighty Rafa’?

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Where Steve Bruce is concerned, it doesn’t take much for the mask to slip.

In his 22 months (so far…) at Newcastle United, when put under pressure, the Head Coach frequently lashing out, seeking to blame others for his own shortcomings.

Or alternatively, make some quite incredible claims to back up his position, such as claiming he received sackloads of fanmail sent in by post from Newcastle fans, when asked by the media about supporters wanting him out (for example, a Chronicle poll of 14,000 fans showed 95% wanted Steve Bruce to go).

When Steve Bruce messed up a substitution which led to Wolves equalising at St James Park in February (2021), he embarrassingly blamed Matt Ritchie for it, instead of taking responsibility himself. Ritchie calling Bruce a coward for trying to pass the blame.

Maybe the very worst instance for trying to blame others, was the 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United on 12 January 2021.

Sheffield United had won none of their last 20 Premier League matches, losing a massive 18 of them and drawing two.

Yet Steve Bruce lined up his team with a back five and three defensive midfielders, Callum Wilson up front and Ryan Fraser the only player in the team to supposedly give him some support.

After the ultra negative team selection and tactics away at Sheff Utd produced a shockingly poor performance and result, Steve Bruce amazingly came out with this…

“We were absolutely fr.gging hopeless…absolute sh.te we were.

“I have let them [the Newcastle players] be comfortable but the gloves are off now.

“I am going to do it my way, I have said from day one the way I wanted to play and haven’t done it enough.”

Quite unbelievable, 18 months in charge at St James Park and Steve Bruce blaming the players for the terrible negative team selection and tactics. Which other Premier League manager would do this???

Only ten days after that particular embarrassment at Bramall Lane and the aftermath, Steve Bruce was at it again.

On a run of seven defeats and two draws in Newcastle’s last nine matches, Steve Bruce yet again lashed out when under pressure and asked difficult questions, a rare event for the usually (with odd notable, now banned by Bruce, exception) subservient NUFC journalists!

On the eve of the away game at his old club Aston Villa, Steve Bruce letting the mask slip as he attempted to justify keeping his job.

Steve Bruce – 22 January 2021:

“Rafa, who I have obviously heard a lot about, where did he finish?”

“We matched the mighty Rafa last year.

“We’ll try to keep edging towards where I want to take us, which is the top 10.

“At this particular moment we’re on a bad run and we’re four or five points off it.”

Following those Steve Bruce comments, he sent out yet another negative team and tactics, Villa strolled to a 2-0 win and Newcastle only one shot on target the whole night. A home defeat to Leeds then followed, making it nine losses and two draws in eleven games, yet still Bruce refused to resign, Steve Bruce making clear that only if he was sacked (and would then qualify for a widely reported £4m pay-off) would he leave. The dismal run of form ended up stretching to only two wins in twenty one matches, from mid-December to mid-January.

Going back to his Rafa Benitez comments, it is quite clear that the Spaniard is lodged permanently in Bruce’s brain, the NUFC Head Coach on some mad stop at nothing quest to match his predecessor. A predecessor who was starved of funds by Mike Ashley, ending up making a profit on transfers in and out during his three years at NUFC. The tenth place finish on 44 points in 2017/18 and thirteen on 45 points in 2018/19 not seen by anybody as success, least of all Rafa. More a case of a good job done in very difficult circumstances.

Steve Bruce in contrast, has been allowed a net spend by Ashley of over £100m in his first three transfer windows, after taking over a mid-table team with a fantastic disciplined defence. Rafa Benitez drilled and drilled players bought on a budget and those already at the club, into such a disciplined unit that only six PL teams conceded less goals in 2017/18 and 2018/19. By contrast, Steve Bruce has turned the defence into a failing until, last season only six clubs conceded more and ahead of Fulham today, only four have conceded more than NUFC.

I think Steve Bruce is so desperate to try and match Rafa Benitez’ 45 points of 2018/19, he will do absolutely anything to try and win what is in reality, a pretty meaningless game at Fulham today.

Only four nights ago, Joelinton and Allan Saint-Maximin were forced off against Sheffield United with injury, knocks, fatigue, or a combination. Then with both Joe Willock and Martin Dubravka injured and having treatment on the pitch and both in clear discomfort, Steve Bruce subbed Willock and left Dubravka to struggle through the final stages.

Ahead of this Fulham match, at his Friday press conference Steve Bruce said he will have late fitness checks on the likes of ASM and Dubravka.

The fact it was only Wednesday when all four players were so clearly struggling, surely it should be an easy choice just to rest all four and give squad players such as Gillespie, Gayle, Carroll, whoever a game. Take care of key players and make sure that knocks, injuries, fatigue doesn’t end up in a really bad injury today.

If say Martin Dubravka ended up knackered and ruled out of his possibly one chance ever of a major international tournament this summer, simply because Steve Bruce was so desperate to match a meaningless Benitez points total of a couple of years ago, it would be unforgivable.

By the way, imagine if the roles had been reversed, just how much Rafa Benitez would have been ridiculed by all the media if he had declared: ‘We matched the mighty Steve last year’…?!!!

I would like Newcastle to win today, I want them to win all games.

However, common sense intervenes at times and with nothing of real meaning to play for, it is far more important that players are looked after today. After all, it is Steve Bruce himself who has constantly gone on about injuries being supposedly caused by the sheer number of matches in a short period of time that players have had to play.

No Newcastle player HAS to be included today and if four of them weren’t fit enough to comfortably finish 90 minutes on Wednesday night, then that has to set off alarm bells for even Steve Bruce.

I will take extra special interest when Brucey unveils his final team selection of this 2020/21 Premier League season at 3pm this afternoon.

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