From Benitez, BZG & Mbappe to Bruce – but is he about to play his cards right?

Here we go. Again. A summer that promised so much has delivered us the square root of diddly squat. From what seemed at one point likely to be a Dubai-based takeover with Rafa Benitez given a new contract and a transfer kitty that would bring Kylian Mbappe to Tyneside, has moved on to us losing Rafa, selling Perez, not buying Rondon and ending up with the former mackem boss who had to resign from Sheffield Wednesday because our tight-fisted owner wouldn’t give them the full compensation they asked for. At the time of writing, it’s still to be decided what legal action Bruce’s former employers will take on his new ones. But the phrase “hope you take them to the cleaners” was uttered more in the NE1 region on Wednesday than when the sheets are changed after a night in the Love Island villa.

Yes, Steve Bruce is our new manager. Well, ‘head coach’ if we’re getting technical. Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley decided that a manager who has won every trophy going in club football shouldn’t be given the keys to St James’ and replaced him at the 11th hour (or 11th listed name if rumours are to be believed) with a man who has never won a trophy in his managerial career. I guess you could say he’s the perfect match for Ashley and co as he will continue that losing streak over the next three years of his contract.

With takeover talk falling flat as quickly as Boris Johnson’s latest kipper-based gag, the reality of the 2019–20 season looks set in stone. Bruce will be in charge of our latest journey to finish 17th in the Premier League — and will earn a few extra quid on top of his zero-hours contract if he manages to do it. With #BoycottArsenal already on fan’s agendas and season tickets sales at least 12,000 less than last season, it seems this news hasn’t exactly been met with universal acceptance. Good. The more of that the better. It’s really about time we made a stand against our retail hoarder of an owner that makes us suitably depressed every time he makes another fine mess.

A quick scan at the Premier League relegation odds since the end of last season tells its own tale. With Rafa seemingly likely to continue his Newcastle love affair, we were only around 5/1 for the drop this season. Now, it’s as short as 6/4. More money has gone on NUFC to be relegated than any other club over the past week. Is that a fair reflection on the state of the club going into the new season? Probably.

However, I’m going to be honest and say that I actually don’t think we’ll be relegated this season.

Yes, we have an incompetent manager that has only been employed because he; a) is a ‘Geordie’, b) was wanting the job, c) would put up with Ashley, Charnley and co and d) is a ‘Geordie’. If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard the word ‘local’ mentioned in the press (and particularly by Shola “Loan Coordinator” Ameobi on Sky) this week, I could probably rival the BZG bid for the club.

Yes, we have lost two very important players in Perez and Rondon. We also need to replace players like Diame and Kenedy too. Plus there’s every chance that the likes of Longstaff, Dubravka, Schar and others might be tempted to move on too.

Yes, the atmosphere around the club is in its seemingly usual poisonous state with fan unrest, season tickets not being renewed, boycotts planned and other protests in the works.

But, despite all that…I actually think we’ll meet the targets set by those in charge come May. We’ll make our customary early exits from the FA Cup and whatever random company is sponsoring the Worthington Cup these days. Tick.

We’ll make a good profit from telly money and other finances that will make us North East Balance Sheet Champions for the umpteenth season in a row. Tick.

We’ll also even win the odd game or two and finish in that position of the league that Mike loves. Somewhere between 11th and 17th. Our squad, albeit bare and lacking quality in-depth, is good in defence — for the first time in years — and parts of the midfield. We have a settled back three if Steve “I don’t do tactics’ Bruce decides to stick with what worked last season. We have Longstaff, Shelvey and, if he stays, Hayden in the centre of the park who can work their socks off to win the ball back and start effective counters. We have Almiron who looked electrifying in the Copa America and will be keen to showcase his talents more in order to win the Santiago Munez move to Real Madrid.

If Bruce can bring in the two strikers he’s promised (with Joelinton seemingly very close), alongside a winger, central midfielder, right wing-back to compliment Ritchie on the left side and someone who can lift the bums off seats, for those who just can’t quite peel themselves away, then we’ll probably be good enough to reach the promised land of Premier League football once again. A lot of that depends on those deals getting over a line that only ever seems to be mentioned in relation in incomings at SJP for some bizarre reason. But surely, SURELY Ashley isn’t going to not bring in a single player come August 8th?! Right??!

In summary, some quick questions and answers: Do I want Steve Bruce as Newcastle United boss? No. Do I wish Rafa was still here? Yes. Will I be attending St James’ Park again whilst Ashley is still in charge? No. Will I give Bruce a chance? Yes, although if/when things don’t go right, remember it’s not all his fault. Is there really only one person who we need to direct our disgust and fury at until he finally sells the club we love? Fucking yes.

Steve Bruce won’t be dealt a great set of cards but if he plays them right his Ashley bonus will be all the sweeter. Higher than a Rafa finish? Don’t bank on it.

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About Olly Hawkins

Olly has been a Junior Magpie from birth. As a season ticket holder and avid Newcastle United fan - he eats, sleeps and breathes all things NUFC.

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