‘My final word on Steve Bruce’
When I read the club statement following the sacking of Steve Bruce, I tried to look at it dispassionately and not through the eyes of a Newcastle United supporter.
I have friends who support other clubs who never quite understood the vitriol directed at Bruce and from the outside looking in, part of me can understand why.
This is my final word on Steve Bruce…
Referring to the club’s statement, this bit in particular aimed to highlight what Bruce had achieved during his time at the club:
‘He leaves the Magpies after more than two years in charge, having steered the club to 13th and 12th-place finishes in the Premier League and reaching the quarter-final stage in both the Emirates FA Cup and Carabao Cup during his tenure.’
When you read that in isolation, you can perhaps understand why fans of other clubs might think Bruce was doing a good job and that he was being castigated unfairly by Newcastle United fans with unrealistic expectations.
However, there were far more factors at play that led to Bruce’s raging unpopularity with supporters of the club.
Let’s start with the fans.
Steve Bruce paid tribute to our ‘incredible support’ in his exit statement but I, like many, felt he often treated us with barely disguised contempt. He would regularly reference our ‘expectations’ as if we didn’t have the right to expect slightly better than the tactical ineptness he was serving up on a daily basis.
Then there was the style of play which has been nothing short of dreadful from day one. Fans can accept difficult results if they can see that a team has an identity and is trying to progress. Look at Brighton under Graeme Potter. They too have flirted dangerously with relegation over the last two seasons – but they have a manager who believed his way of playing would get results, and Brighton now sit fourth in the Premier League table, having lost only once this season.
Then there were his regular snipes at previous manager Rafa Benitez, which were never going to prove popular. His ‘Mighty Rafa’ claim highlighted an immaturity, bitterness and petty nature that was never likely to endear him to anyone. While Rafa wasn’t always perfect, the effort he put into cultivating a relationship with the supporters was greatly appreciated and ensured he continued to receive the backing of the majority of the fanbase, even through some very difficult periods.
The reference to the two quarter finals as Bruce achieving success in the cup competitions is also incredibly misleading. In that run to the FA Cup quarter final we needed replays to overcome Oxford United and Rochdale before losing to the first decent team we played in Manchester City.
The following season’s run to the League Cup quarter final though must go down as the biggest disappointment of Steve Bruce’s reign. Luck was on our side once more, drawing lower league opposition in the first couple of rounds, before needing penalties to get past League Two side Newport County. This earned us a quarter final draw against Championship side Brentford with a real opportunity to get to a domestic cup semi-final for the first time since 2005.
But we blew it. In spectacular fashion. Brentford were chasing promotion at the time and left out of many of their first choice eleven, including Ivan Toney, and we produced one of the most toothless performances of the Bruce era to lose 1-0.
However, the most galling aspect of his time at the club for me, was that I can’t think of a single player who improved under his management and his treatment of the Longstaff brothers was disgraceful.
Sean went from being a potential England prospect to being unable to even get into the first team until relatively recently, while after bursting on to the scene with that stunning debut goal against Manchester United, Matty’s career has failed to take off and he now finds himself unable to get a game on loan at Aberdeen.
I’m sure there is more but I want this article to draw a line under how I feel about Steve Bruce and move into the bright new era. He can bleat to his supporters in the media about how he was treated but he brought a great deal of it on himself.
Goodbye and good riddance.
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