Despite some promising signs over the past month, it really is crunch time for Steve Bruce. December’s hectic schedule is going to define our season, and Bruce’s standing as Newcastle United head coach.
The games are about to come thick and fast, and with our next 4 games being Sheffield United away, Southampton at home, Burnley away and Crystal Palace at home, we have a chance to get some points on the board and finally define what what we actually are.
Are we a team battling against the drop, or can we really push on, look up the table, and become a team that can inspire hope amongst the fans for something beyond just survival.
The Premier League is beyond crazy this season, as here we are entering December with the league still not showing any discernible shape. If you look at the table 10 teams have 4 wins from the 14 games. I’ve been reliably informed that’s the first time that has happened since records began.
It’s a bi polar league and we are the absolute embodiment of it, the public opinion of Bruce is equally as bi polar. In my 38 years as a Newcastle fan, never has the opinion on a manager been so divided.
Those in favour of Bruce, or “Team Bruce” which seems to be a small movement on social media, will point to the 4 excellent wins. Two of them came against the established order in Spurs and Man United and two brilliant wins and performances against West Ham and Bournemouth. Add to that a good performance and a gutsy point against one of the world’s best in Manchester City.
His detractors will point to 2 abject defeats and unacceptable performances at newly promoted teams, woeful attacking stats and a home performance against Brighton that was so bad, it’s a still a mystery as to how we came away with a point.
Fans who are on his side will say he has more points than Benitez did this time last year. Those who aren’t so keen will point out that we finished 13th last year, and are currently 14th after spending just over £60m on new attacking players. That could be again countered by the fact we lost Rondon and Perez which Bruce had no say in whatsoever.
There are valid points on both sides, plenty of positives to take and plenty to still be worried about. For proof of how frankly insane we are as a team this year, look at the fact that of our 13 goals this season, 8 have been scored by defenders and 4 by midfielders, with Joelinton’s winner at Spurs being the solitary goal by an actual forward.
Bruce has exceeded expections, my own definitely and lots of others I know. I was livid at his appointment, I make no bones about that. One thing I think he deserves huge, HUGE credit for is how he has managed to bring the club out of an absolute car crash of a summer, none of which was his fault, and have the team in decent shape in the league. It’s a minor miracle to be honest.
Now, it really is time for him to grab his job, and our season by the jaffas! Four winnable games coming up. If we could take say, 7 points or more, we could think about having a serious crack at the top 10. Take 3 points or less and we are absolutely in a relegation battle.
If we won all 4, or lost all 4 I honestly don’t think I’d be surprised.
Up next a tough looking trip to Bramall Lane, and a Sheffield United team who have looked excellent so far this season under the impressive Chris Wilder.
One thing that had me seething after the Villa defeat, was the manner of it. Lifeless, listless and too much respect shown to the opposition. The same set of pre-match circumstances for that game exist for Thursday’s trip to another of Bruce’s old clubs. We are the established Premier League team, we have a better team on paper and in terms of Premier League experience on the pitch and in the dugout, we outweigh them by far.
So come on Bruce, it’s all yours for the taking.