Steve Bruce has spoken out for the first time since his press conference last Friday, with the Newcastle United boss agreeing to an ‘exclusive’ interview with the Chronicle.
In this he discusses his first season at St James’ Park, his recent formation change, the character of his squad and the suspension of Premier League football – ominously telling Lee Ryder “it feels like an end of season piece.”
Of course things could change, but it is more and more difficult to imagine football resuming anytime soon given the coronavirus pandemic that threatens to send the UK into lockdown.
Back to footballing matters, here’s what Bruce had to say – starting with a discussion on his tactics and recent switch from a 5-man defence to four at the back:
“We’re doing this piece now and it feels like an end of season piece.
“But I’ve said all along…
“With my experience, I didn’t come in and say I could change it all tomorrow.
“They have played a certain way under the previous manager and they were comfortable with it.
“So I then thought if they were comfortable I wouldn’t implement change just yet.
“By the way, there is nothing wrong with how we’ve played.
“We beat Tottenham, Man United and Chelsea – and drew with Man City, that is some achievement from a team from the bottom half of the division (last season).”
“When I thought we were no longer a threat, that was when I felt we had to change.
“If Southampton was anything to go by and the chances created, that is how we go moving forward.
“That isn’t to say if we play Man City away I won’t revert to five at the back, I possibly will do, but I think it’s vitally important you have the ability to change.
“Overall I have always enjoyed playing two up top.
“That’s my philosophy if you like and my style so we will see.
“In the last week, buoyed by results, it is the way forward.
“Since the change, we had 21 attempts against Burnley, scored three at West Brom and beat Southampton on a day when we created six glorious chances.”
Bruce then discussed the way his squad has quietly ‘stood up to adversity’ this season.
With several players suffering long-term injuries and a crisis hitting over Christmas, Bruce believes “we’ve done ok” to be in 13th and in the quarter final of the FA Cup as things stand:
“Even now we have Martin Dubravka injured in a game and Ciaran Clark had an operation.
“On the quiet this season the squad has stood up to adversity.
“We have been threadbare at times.
“The three loan signings that we got in January have helped us create competition.
“I think they have already played a vital part in it.
“Think of the injuries we’ve had this season, Jetro Willems, Matt Ritchie, Andy Carroll, Dwight Gayle and Martin Dubravka now.
“There’s been six or seven of them who have missed months of action.
“Over the Christmas period, I have never known anything like it.
“The Leicester game at home we lost four players in 12 minutes and that really was unprecedented.
“You look at that and think, well we’re 13th and we are in the quarter-final of the FA Cup and we’ve done OK.
“We won’t ever get carried away but we’ve done OK.”
Finally, Bruce then commented on the coronavirus pandemic and the suspension of Premier League football.
Here’s what he had to say on the events of the past week, revealing what’s gone on behind the scenes between now and Friday’s press conference – also sending a message to fans during this difficult time:
“All of a sudden this consumes your mind.
“Last week we prepared for a game against Sheffield United and now we’ve got players training individually.
“Training grounds are being shut down because of the environment we find ourselves in.
“It’s really difficult for everybody but the most important thing is the wellbeing of supporters.”
“The most important thing for us is the welfare of our supporters.
“For me, it’s the players and the staff too.
“When the breaking news comes that the Arsenal manager has contracted it, health and people’s lives is far more important than a football match.
“The thoughts are with the supporters.
“For all of us, this is going to be difficult to comprehend what is going to happen and find answers to all the questions everybody will ask.
“The key to it all is people’s health – let’s not forget people are dying.
“A football match is just a match.
“For me, playing behind closed doors is something which I can’t see the point of.
“The whole thing that makes our football club is the 50,000 supporters that come and get behind us.
“Without that, you may get a result but it’s not for me and we’re governed by the authorities and we will see what they come up with.”