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Opinion

Steve Bruce claims it is so important in pre-season and yet this happens…?

4 weeks ago
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Steve Bruce consistently battered the message home throughout pre-season.

The Newcastle United repeatedly saying that the weeks leading up to the new season were all about getting as many minutes on the pitch into players’ legs before the competitive action started.

However, how did then measure up with when Steve Bruce announced at 1pm on Sunday his team to play West Ham?

Newcastle United in pre-season had six matches, playing York, Doncaster, Rotherham, Burton, Burnley and Norwich, with a maximum of 540 minutes available for each player.

These were the highest to lowest:

421 Murphy

410 Hayden

352 Sean Longstaff

352 Fernandez

338 Ritchie

327 Hendrick

323 Fraser

317 Lewis

269 Gayle

268 Lascelles

246 Wilson

230 Clark

225 Woodman

201 Watts

199 Krafth

180 Langley

161 Joelinton

159 Schar

155 Saint-Maximin

149 Matty Longstaff

136 Dummett

135 Gillespie

95 White

79 Young

76 Shelvey

63 Allan

45 Almiron

11 Manquillo

11 Muto

6 Bondswell

0 Dubravka, Darlow and Anderson

This though was how Steve Bruce used his playing squad on Sunday:

Woodman, Murphy, Krafth (Sean Longstaff 84), Fernandez, Clark, Ritchie, Shelvey (Fraser 70), Hayden, Almiron, Saint-Maximin, Wilson (Joelinton 85)

When you compare that starting eleven to the minutes each player managed in pre-season, it doesn’t exactly add up.

Of the ten outfield players to get the most minutes of football in pre-season, only four of them (Murphy, Hayden, Fernandez and Ritchie) started against West Ham.

I can totally understand the desperation to get the likes of Wilson, ASM and Almiron in the team against West Ham but even then, why keep them on the pitch until the bitter end in the cases of ASM and Almiron, until 85 minutes for Wilson. Once West Ham went 4-2 up on 66 minutes, I would have taken the trio off to protect them, rather than another half hour (including added time) for ASM and Almiron, another 19 for Wilson. Almiron only played 45 minutes of friendly action, whilst ASM only managed 45 minutes in the final four friendlies. Wilson with 45 minutes in the final three.

Indeed, in an opening match where injuries are always most likely, Bruce’s use of the subs is bizarre. Not even using all five and making only one change before the 84th minute.

Up against the likes of Declan Rice and some very good attacking midfield players, I especially find the decision to play Shelvey (76 minutes in pre-season) who missed most of pre-season with a calf injury ahead of Sean Longstaff (352 minutes – third highest), absolutely crazy.

Shelvey has so little mobility and effort in normal times, never mind having had so little pre-season.

More questions to add to the pile for Steve Bruce, who just makes it up as he goes along.

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