The former Celtic and Blackburn striker turned BBC pundit is an outspoken and combative co host on 5 live and 606, and is certainly entertaining.
To be fair to him he’s said Bruce is a good appointment and deserves time and respect since day one, and he’s had this to say about our recent up turn in form and Bruce on BBC Radio 5Live’s Monday Night Club.
“He bore the brunt of a difficult situation and Newcastle has been toxic for a while. What managers don’t get now is time and Steve Bruce always needed time to implement his own style of play and I think there must be Newcastle fans out there who will be embarrassed with the way that they have treated Steve Bruce and the fact he is from the area.
“He has had a terrific career in management and you can’t judge him after two, three, four games and saying get somebody else in.
“Wasn’t this a Newcastle team who under Rafa [Benitez] didn’t win in their first 10 games? Yet Newcastle fans gave him the opportunity.
“It was always going to be easier to judge Steve Bruce after 15, 18 games and that is more of a reasonable barometer. But not single figure games, come on. He deserves more respect than that.
“Joelinton is a bit of a head-scratcher at times and he needs him to click, but they are improving gradually. They have back-to-back wins now and it is just about grinding it on, churning it out.
“You can see there is an organisation about them and what I can’t work out is what is the expectation from Newcastle supporters this season?
“What do they want? Is staying up sufficient? Probably not for Newcastle, they maybe want a little more than that which maybe a little bit harsh.”
Interesting comments and Sutton is right for the most part, but he’s also slightly wide of the mark in places.
When he talks about fans being embarrassed, if he’s talking about fans who have been personally abusing Bruce on social media, he’s right. Sadly it’s a by product of social media and every club has fans that do it.
If he’s talking about the fact some fans were unhappy with his appointment and now they’re happier because we’re winning games, then I personally fall into that category, but I am in no way shape or form embarrassed. Far from it Chris. I couldn’t be happier that we’re winning games and Bruce is getting it together. It’s the sweetest tasting humble pie out there.
That being said, while he is getting it right at the moment, I don’t believe I was wrong in the slightest to be unhappy at Bruce’s appointment, his track record warranted it. He’s also made mistakes, lost games, said some strange things in interviews and overseen some horrendous performances. The anger and discontent in our fan base is aimed primarily at Ashley, not Bruce. While Sutton is right that Bruce walked into a toxic situation and bore the brunt of it, the anger aimed at him was/is a by product of what he represented, which was a lack of ambition, and the fact that we replaced a Champions League winner with a Championship manager whose record is average at best. Also the fact Bruce is from the area isn’t really important, a media myth, usually spoken by people who have hardly spent any time in our wonderful part of the world.
Then there’s that old chestnut. Rafa’s record of the first 10 games last season vs Bruce’s this season. When on earth are people going to stop harping on about this? It means nothing and is tiresome. The same people who constantly mention this are the same ones who constantly tell us we need to move on from Rafa. It’s almost an oxymoron.
A better comparison would have been the form at the end of last season to the start of this, which went from winning games and looking a good side, to losing games and looking a poor one who couldn’t score, despite spending a fortune (by Ashley’s standards) in the summer. Every football fan across the world has the right to be slightly peeved at that. Of course there were extenuating circumstances that Bruce isn’t to blame for, such as Rondon not being retained, Perez leaving, their replacements having no Premier League experience and the poor timing of his appointment after pre-season was already underway.
It’s Sutton’s last comment that maybe got me thinking the most. What indeed do we want? Is just staying up sufficient? No it isn’t, and we certainly aren’t being harsh on Bruce by expecting more than that. In fairness to Bruce, I think he believes the same.
We want what every fan wants. To see our club be the best it can be and try to improve season on season. We’ve finished 10th and 13th in the last two seasons and signed £80m worth of attacking talent since last January. We have the right to expect our team to push on and do better this season, and despite a bad start, I’m starting to believe we just might.