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Opinion

Steve Bruce – A truce

1 month ago
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Now that the 2020/21 season is over and we can all take stock of the season (such as it was), attention should now focus on where we go from here.

I have regularly given my opinion previously on Steve Bruce so I’ll keep that to a minimum and even call somewhat of a truce.

A “Truce With Bruce” if you like. Well, sort of.

I’m not going down the route of either praising the man or the manager, as there are many factors in to why the club finished 12th, but he achieved the official remit and for that I suppose he’s served his purpose. That the remit was to simply avoid relegation is quite frankly scandalous and sums up our situation under the current owner. Lowering the bar to such a level that any Tom, Dick or Harry could achieve it is NOT to be tolerated, never mind praised.

Our late rally since February covered a multitude of sins and some truly horrific stats and performances in the previous months of the season. I’m of the school of thought that both Graeme Jones and super sub Joe Willock have saved this season for Steve Bruce in equal measure, with a more than special mention for Karl Darlow for actually keeping the team above water in the first half of the season. And it was the arrival of Jones that almost instantly jolted something into a lifeless and defensive mess of the side previously seen before the Everton away win. There’s no disguising that.

It would be easy to put our renaissance down to some sort of superhuman effort from the players and coaching staff and I do think some players weren’t pulling their weight, almost waiting for Steve Bruce to be given the boot. It obviously dawned on some of them that this wasn’t going to happen after the shocking 3-0 defeat away at Brighton. That being said, our escape could just as easily be put down to Fulham’s collapse as much as anything from our side of things.

When we went on a run of a just a couple of wins in twenty games, that not one of the sides below us managed to get on a consistent enough run to overtake us shows how awful the bottom three were. Look where our average position was this season. Despite what the fawning media mates of Bruce want us to do, I’m not about to praise a manager for keeping the club hovering in 16th/17th place for most of the season.

Add in the fallings out with players, the ridiculous team selections, the self inflicted injuries and fitness issues over two seasons, the inferiority complex with previous managers and comparisons with previous league finishes over the years to mask the position we were in and I’ll stand by what I said months ago that the man is a charlatan. I thought this before he came and I think it even more now having seen the evidence.

We as fans shouldn’t be accepting any manager that lowers standards and then praises himself for hitting such standards. If we hold any hope of our team succeeding, even at a low level, we need a managerial change as this won’t last.

It’s a running joke that Steve Bruce carries and rides an almighty amount of luck, a good trait to have I must concede but when the sh.t hit the fan at the turn of the year and we were beaten by a Championship reserve team (Brentford) and an (almost already) relegated Sheffield United, excuses and references to previous regimes were trotted out, often accompanied by sycophantic comments from his family members or former players.

Not for the first time I’ll state, it’s a good job fans weren’t in the stadiums. I don’t like Steve Bruce but I wouldn’t wish the vitriol and abuse on anyone, no matter if they deserve it or not. Whenever I’ve witnessed it in the past it’s simply been painful to hear and be part of, even if I haven’t been doing the hurling personally.

With the backdrop of a potential takeover (stop laughing at the back!), next season could have been a nightmare for any new owners as well as fans returning to St James Park, who don’t deserve to be watching Championship football again due to the lunacy of the owner. The squad badly needs a rejig and that’s criminal from where we were at the end of 2018/19. The positivity of that final day away at Fulham was another sliding doors moment that Mike Ashley didn’t so much fail to take but actually forced a size 12 boot through.

You can put figures on what it will take to sort the squad out but it will be futile. I’ve heard the budget is rumoured to be as little as £15m and that frankly is frighteningly low. You can forget Joe Willock coming for that, even if it were possible and all parties were willing.

And on that, we can’t rely on performances from a young midfielder that’s playing out of his skin to bail us out. On form Willock was the best player in the league over the last few weeks of the season but alas, I feel that unless the aforementioned takeover takes place, we won’t be signing anyone of his undoubted quality. Someone else will get one heck of a talented player.

This is why the key role to fill is the manager’s chair. We can harp on about Rafa Benitez this and Rafa Benitez that but he aint coming back and nor do I think he should. That ship has sailed. The bigger problem I have is that good managers should be retained and backed sufficiently, poor ones shouldn’t even be considered. This owner backs the rubbish ones and starves (relatively speaking) the good ones. When he says he doesn’t know anything about football, I actually believe him for once.

So then, what a time to be a Newcastle United fan. On one side of things we have the media that tell us how ungrateful we are as a fanbase, that we should be thankful for merely being in the Premier League, a Premier League that denies us the chance of being competitive. A Premier League whose top six members object to another big player being allowed at the table. And let’s not get started on the top six rats that wanted to chuck the entire thing to the four winds. Thank heavens the Super League idea was launched into the dustbin within hours of it being announced. But what are we left with?

A club that keeps rolling the dice and hopes that each season there are simply three more teams that are equally as incompetent as Fulham, West Brom and Sheffield United have been this season. That is not Newcastle United, that is barely even a professional football club. It’s a Newcastle outfit that managed to lose an incredible 17 games, have statistically one of the worst defence and/or attacks we’ve seen from the Premier League era. Sorry, what? We finished 12th you say? No matter which way you look at it, that’s an anomaly of epic proportions.

So I suppose there will be some of you shouting “Come on then, who do you want to come in?” and whilst I’m loathe to suggest managers for the simple reason as there will be loads of you out there with many valid counter arguments as to why they shouldn’t be appointed, I have to hold my hands up and admit that it’s a valid question. If I want rid of the man in the dugout, it’s only fair I suggest a replacement even if the likelihood is that we’ll still have Bruce next season.

It must be someone who can raise the stature of the club by his mere name and presence and that would be pretty much be the only condition I would have. The appointment needs to set the club up on a good footing for any takeover, whenever that goes through. It would also help if they were someone who can guide the club with modest funds baring in mind who we have as owner.

Either way, going for the manager who was reportedly tenth choice (or worse) has landed us with Bruce, someone who without luck, outside help or divine intervention took us to the edge of the relegation zone this season and blamed every other thing he could for it happening.

At first I thought of Roberto Martinez who would be ideal, I was also encouraged when I found out that Graeme Jones has followed Martinez from Swansea to Wigan and then on to Everton and then linked up with him once more for the Belgian national side. Alas, I feel (without a takeover) this move may be prohibitive primarily due to cost and that Martinez may not fancy leaving his role with Belgium and coming back to club management just yet. One for the future maybe?

A far more realistic option and one that could at least get fans a little more united behind is Claudio Ranieri, who I’m led to believe is out of contract this summer. It would be a stop gap of sorts, especially at 69, but let’s not forget the ride we had with the last likeable old aged pensioner we had.

But what I’m certain of is that we can’t keep going the way we have been going under the current Head Coach. How much would it cost just to stand still with the current incumbent? What will happen next season with ever more limited funds? Why risk jeopardising the Premier League status while the club is in limbo off the field?

But while all those questions can be easily and rationally answered by anyone with a football brain, I’ll leave you with this final thought…

With even greater numbers of fans returning to stadiums at some point next season, I wouldn’t want to see Steve Bruce subjected to 50,000+ dissenting fans hurling abuse (amongst other things?) from the stands. No honestly, I mean it. Maybe I’m going soft but it’s also a scenario I wouldn’t want to see plastered in newspapers and on TV for all the media misfits to sneer and call us Newcastle fans deluded for having dared to dream of something better than simply avoiding relegation. That isn’t a fair representation of Newcastle United either.

To avoid such an unfavourable turn of events and to attempt to at least get this back to a united, professional football club, try and tempt the Tinkerman to Tyneside.

Enjoy your summer everyone…

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