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Mark Lawrenson – It is a free hit for Newcastle United interim manager

1 month ago
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Mark Lawrenson was gutted to see his mate Steve Bruce sacked by Newcastle United.

Having repeatedly stuck up for Bruce despite an abysmal record of seven wins in his final thirty eight games, the former Liverpool defender is now looking at what is to come for Newcastle in the wake of his friend’s dismissal.

Steve Bruce having left the NUFC squad in a total mess, a demoralised set of players dragged down by the now former head coach, having managed zero wins in the first ten weeks of the season, with six defeats in those opening nine matches and a place in the relegation zone.

Graeme Jones has been handed control in the meantime, with a title of interim manager rather than the usual caretaker, though the end result is surely the same.

As Mark Lawrenson points out, lifelong Newcastle fan Jones is not a serious contender for the job on a permanent basis. So the BBC Sport pundit describes it as a ‘free hit’ for the interim manager this Saturday at Selhurst Park.

Whether a permanent new manager is announced ahead of the game remains to be seen but the new Newcastle United owners are said to be holding talks with a number of potential candidates, including Paulo Fonseca.

Mark Lawrenson sees the return of a fully fit Callum Wilson as major positive but points to problems at the other end of the pitch for Newcastle United.

The defensive side of the game got progressively worse under Steve Bruce and it went from Newcastle to having the seventh tightest defensive record in each of Rafa’s two Premier League seasons, to now this season NUFC are the very worst with 19 goals conceded already in eight games, three more than the next highest club.

Bruce had said specifically earlier this season that whilst Graeme Jones was working on the attacking side, he (Bruce) was working on the defensive side. Hopefully now that negative is removed, we will see a far better all round cohesive team at both ends of the pitch.

Interesting to see what Graeme Jones goes for in his first / only team selection, hopefully Martin Dubravka will be deemed fit enough to return as Karl Darlow has struggled and let in some poor goals these past four matches. The only players definitely unavailable look to be the suspended Jonjo Shelvey and Paul Dummett who was pictured out training this week but only working alone, not with the main group yet.

Mark Lawrenson thinks the new (interim) manager bounce won’t be enough and that Graeme Jones’ NUFC will lose 2-1 to Palace.

After losing 3-0 to Chelsea on the opening day, Palace have only lost one more PL match, also 3-0, to Liverpool. However, the other six games have seen five draws and just one win, 3-0 at home against Spurs.

Watching them in matches this season, Palace do look much improved this season under new manager Patrick Vieira, with their summer signings paying dividends with far better performances that you feel will turn into more wins very shortly. Guehi and Andersen look two really decent centre-backs, whilst Edouard who was signed from Celtic already has three goals in three PL starts (plus two sub appearances), that trio costing £50m, whilst arguably their best signing was loan midfielder Conor Gallagher who is running the show for them. Mike Ashley allegedly blocking a Newcastle move for the 21 year old because of a refusal to allow even loan and free signings once Joe Willock was signed.

If you are looking for positives ahead of this game, then Newcastle have a pretty excellent record at Selhurst Park, their last 15 visits (going back over 40 years) producing nine wins, three draws and three defeats. It was a 2-0 win last season with late goals from Wilson and Joelinton, only two defeats in the last six visits and before that it was six wins in a row.

The presence of Steve Bruce certainly didn’t help against Spurs on Sunday and hopefully we will see a far more positive reaction from the Newcastle players to Graeme Jones taking over, even if only temporarily. A 100% winning record as interim manager would be nice, with then a new permanent appointment taking charge after this weekend.

There have been a fair few goals (23) in the eight Palace matches so far, with them scoring 10 and conceding 13, which suggests that if Newcastle could keep a PL clean sheet for the first time this season, they could well walk away with a massive win.

Mark Lawrenson talking to BBC Sport:

“Graeme Jones will be in charge of Newcastle following Steve Bruce’s departure and this is a free hit for him because he’s not really in the running to take the job permanently.

“Callum Wilson is back fit for Newcastle and you saw the difference he makes to their attack with his early goal against Tottenham.

“I’d be more worried about the Magpies at the other end though.

“Even if Wilfried Zaha is not well enough to play for Palace.

“Palace have not quite managed to turn some good performances into wins yet under Patrick Vieira.

“Monday’s draw with Arsenal was another example of that, because they should have won, but they are progressing nicely.

“Prediction is Crystal Palace 2 Newcastle 1.”

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