What do you remember about the 2016-17 Premier League campaign?
Whatever memories you might be able to summon from four seasons ago won’t include the Magpies. That was the last time NUFC was relegated to the Championship.
Fortunately, our side squeezed out a slight advantage over Brighton for the top spot on the Championship table, bouncing back to the top flight in time for 2017-18.
Unfortunately, the Magpies are once again making a strong case for relegation early on in 2019-20.
Perhaps that sounds a bit alarmist with only two matches on the books. However, Steve Bruce and company need to adjust quickly in order to stay afloat in the Premier League this term.
Here are three ways a turnaround could happen and save a mutiny at St James’ Park.
Bruce Has to Earn Respect Quickly
Bruce’s arrival in mid-July was met with a few raised eyebrows from Toon supporters. Likely any appointment stepping in to fill the rather sudden departure of Rafa Benítez would face scrutiny. Benítez was popular with the faithful during his three seasons at the helm of the Magpies.
Bruce entered with baggage. There was initial confusion surrounding his rapid transition from Sheffield Wednesday where confidential contract leaks may have tainted his employment–Bruce spent less than seven months patrolling the pitch for the Owls.
He was previously sacked from Aston Villa for poor performance and spent over two years at the reins of Tyne-Wear derby rivals Sunderland.
But none of that matters now.
Bruce is captaining the ship, and he needs to get buy-in from the side. So far, the Magpies have performed like the transitioning group they are; fleeting moments of promise are outweighed by an overarching lack of cohesion.
Yoshinari Muto vocalized his frustration following the 3-1 loss to Norwich on 17 August. The striker was left without much support upon replacing a limping Joelinton and suggested Bruce switch tactics.
Players likewise need to demonstrate patience with Bruce. By transferring in Joelinton and signing six others, he’s shaking things up in the personnel department.
Win the Winnable Matches
There are no guaranteed victories in the Premier League, but some opponents are just easier than others.
NUFC needs to take advantage of the weaker sides on the slate. There just aren’t many lesser clubs when you’re third from the bottom of the table.
We do welcome one to St James’ Park at the end of the month: the Magpies enter their next fixture as the underdog at Tottenham on 25 August while taking an early edge at home against last-place Watford on 31 August.
Walking away from Hotspur Stadium with three points against Tottenham would be a miraculous upset. But we’ll keep expectations realistic and settle for a mild goal differential.
Watford, on the other hand, could prove the self-assuring win NUFC needs to build some momentum heading into September.
The Magpies will need all the juice they can get for the foreseeable future.
There will be sirens descending on Anfield if the 14 September away clash with league-leading Liverpool turns into an unpleasant blood bath. Bouts with Brighton and Leicester City round out the month.
Players Need to Step Up
At the end of the day, the onus is on NUFC players to deliver. That’s something that hasn’t happened yet this season.
The club has one goal against four allowed through the first two contests. Scoring can’t remain this rare. Someone must take responsibility to drive the offence while setting an example. We’re reaching a tipping point and an all-hands-on-deck approach is required to fix the scoring drought.
The point isn’t lost on Paul Dummett. The lifelong program member pointed out the importance of getting back to the basics after the Norwich loss, stating, “I’d say it’s a massive wake up call for us and we gotta get back on the training ground. We got to keep on fighting.”