Steve Bruce needs to ask…’Are they now bulls*itting me?’
Steve Bruce previously declared: ‘I’m never going to bulls.it the fans.’
Well we all know that owner Mike Ashley and his PR team have done so on a repeated basis…
However, the one question Steve Bruce should be asking himself is- Are they now bulls.itting me?
Now Mike Ashley likes a gamble and as the transfer window snapped shut on Tuesday night you can’t help but feel that this season, he’s taken one of, if not the, biggest gambles of his ownership of Newcastle United. And there’s plenty of them to choose from.
While Head Coach Steve Bruce insisted that there were things going on behind the scenes and that he was hopeful of a deal or two being done and “rules were broken” to get Joe Willock to sign on a permanent basis, I was today going to write something along the lines of “It’s not what it was like in the brochure” sort of thing . . until someone elsewhere beat me to it.
However, you can’t help but state the obvious, the owner has played his usual tricks and thrown the future of the club into an awful lot of unnecessary uncertainty. Some way to treat your Head Coach, never mind your £300m+ asset. Although what else is new?
We’d been (not so) subtly prepared all summer by Ashley’s mouthpiece to accept that there will likely be nobody else brought in to help an already under furnished squad and that even the acquisition of Joe Willock was hamfisted and wasn’t meant to be a full on transfer until the club were given no other option by Arsenal but to conduct it as such.
That said, even I thought a loan deal or two would materialise, as the squad that finished last season was hotchpotch at best and was showing severe signs of fatigue. And I’m not just talking about the way the Head Coach and his staff handles their fitness.
We’ve been relying on an aging defence, out of position wing backs and a ponderous, creative free midfield that Willock only partially improves. Further forward we’ve lost the option of Andy Carroll (in theory) and we have a Head Coach that refuses to even play a centre forward in Dwight Gayle when chasing games, despite his often trotted out pro Gayle rhetoric. Let’s hope Callum Wilson doesn’t get . . oh wait!
The trouble with Ashley’s gambles is that he will see various options still available to him and therefore no reason to panic just yet. After the horrendous stats, performances and even form of last season, Ashley (via Lee Charnley) used two such options they had at their disposal.
They first allowed / recruited a new coach in Graeme Jones. This provided new ideas and an initial shot in the arm late January.
The club then played the second hand available to them. In came Joe Willock on loan and this proved decisive in pulling the team away from the drop zone.
It just goes to show how poor the bottom of the league was, when any club can go on such awful form as we did mid-season and only Fulham got remotely close before collapsing through the relegation trap door.
So what cards does the owner have available to avert disaster this season?
1. Do Nothing.
Play the season out and hope that either the squad has just enough quality to survive or that there are three worse teams in the league.
This gets problematic as I think there are fewer really poor sides in the league this season than in recent years. Last season Sheffield United were setting all sorts of unwanted records and were gone by Christmas, with West Brom and Fulham not much better bar a little rally here and there from the Londoners. More teams will make a better fist of it this time round.
2. January panic buying/loans.
A move that proved successful last term and gave the team a vital edge and it was a move that had been forced upon Ashley when Alan Pardew looked like relegating the club in 2013. After some awful results “The French Legion” were signed up six months earlier than planned to give the team a boost in the January 2013 window and averted what was looking an increasingly perilous situation with only Vurnon Anita having been added to the team the previous summer. 2013’s Vurnon Anita reads 2021’s Joe Willock? The two seasons could end up being staggeringly similar.
3. Sack Steve Bruce and / or let Graeme Jones go it alone.
Not an option that can be discounted completely and one that would be cheap, as it wouldn’t require a fee for another manager (bar Bruce’s pay off) and that is not something I think the club will look at anyway.
Personally, I think Ashley and Charnley will be going down the first route for as long as is possible and I think there will likely be three worse teams with Norwich, Brentford and Wolves being my three. Having said that, I think this season may require all three options above being used.
I can see major trouble with fitness/injuries (there always is with Steve Bruce at the helm) and that will put an awful strain on the playing squad long before January. Then the market will have to be dipped into to arrest the slide. You just wonder how bad things will get and how quickly. Will there be enough to save before Ashley and Charnley have to resort to option three?
If things are looking cataclysmic after the transfer window shuts in February 2022 then the only option left would be to dismiss the Head Coach and leave Jones in charge. This is no guarantee of averting disaster but would be preferable to simply leaving Bruce to oversee things, begging the question, what the hell is the point of keeping him anyway?
As for Steve Bruce not bulls.ttting the fans? Maybe he should be asking his superiors as to why they are now the same to him?
Throughout Mike Ashley’s ownership of Newcastle United, a certain Kevin Keegan discovered that what comes out of the owner and his cohorts mouths doesn’t mean a jot AND was proved right in a courtroom setting. Chris Hughton was jettisoned after some sterling work clearing up the mess that the owner had presided over. Rafa Benitez similarly could have told Bruce that waiting for backing from this shower will either result in breadcrumbs, or simply not happen at all. I wonder how he will do this season with fellow departee Salomon Rondon? Looking good so far isn’t it.
Mind you, in the middle of it all, Bruce’s mate Alan Shearer told him what it was all about at St James Park under Ashley and yet he still didn’t listen. Bruce and Ashley both have one thing in common, they’re both chancers masking shambolic failures in ability. The former can’t improve things, the latter simply won’t. What a combination.
Bruce talks a rubbish game and plays one too. Not content with the £125m+ spend that he’s had since he walked through the door in July 2019, it beggars belief that he’s not getting better out of what he has. Then again, he has historically required repeated influxes of players to give short term impact to failing set ups and therefore can’t be that pigheaded to not know that this season’s paucity of incoming players will test his managerial ability to breaking point. Now that IS a worry.
The truth is, being led up the garden path is a new one for THIS manager, especially given that he has been looked on more favourably than most of his predecessors and more financially backed than the one he immediately followed. His weekly misdirection and excuses cut no ice with the majority of the fans who can clearly see that trouble is to come and that it is as obvious as it is self-inflicted.
The Head Coach can therefore have no complaints when suddenly the owner and his regime return to form and play the man that is so far out of his depth like a fiddle, in much the same way both have played the fans.
How does it feel, Steve? How does it feel?
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