When Steve Bruce was appointed Newcastle manager in July 2019 there wasn’t a single member of the Toon Army that was happy about his appointment.
Seeing an ex-Sunderland boss pacing the St James’ Park touchline having been so used to the God-like figure of Rafa Benitez was sickening and enthusiasm for the season ahead was at an all time low.
After a 5-0 drubbing away to Leicester during the infancy of last season it seemed destined that we were hurtling towards another relegation under Mike Ashley.
This defeat caused Bruce to revert to possibly the most boring style of football our club has ever seen, but it got an effective tune out of our players – eventually keeping us up with ease.
He proved the doubters, which included myself, wrong and even had us playing some decent football once the Premier League’s “Project Restart” got underway – something he actually vowed to do upon his arrival.
It is clear the current crop of players enjoy playing under him, with the likes of Shelvey and Saint-Maximin publicly praising the gaffer since he arrived. The latter even told of his “love” for Bruce despite rumours of that famed “bust-up” earlier on in the season.
What we have seen this summer is Bruce put his own stamp on the team in the market. While our recruitment setup have been placed on furlough, it has been predominantly down to the gaffer to plot potential signings to bolster our squad.
Bruce’s input on recruitment has seen our usual transfer policy change, with him charming Mike Ashley to bring in experienced players with proven Premier League experience – something that I wholeheartedly agree we should have done to prevent the risk of relegation.
Above is my tweet from the end of July. Did Bruce manage to read it before dipping our toes in the market? It would appear so, with us raiding two relegated clubs for a striker, winger and left-back just last week!
Yes, there are times where he may shoot himself in the foot and reinforce the belief among some of our fanbase that he is a Mike Ashley puppet. His recent comments in the off-season about “huge expectation” being a problem at our club did not sit well with me at all.
However, the impact of his closer than usual relationship with Ashley has been hugely positive for NUFC – with our notoriously frugal owner putting his hands in his pocket to back Bruce more than he has with any other boss, Steve McClaren aside.
His rapport with the players has convinced the likes of Hayden, Dubravka, Shelvey and Ritchie to all pen long-term contracts. In the Pardew and Carver eras of yesteryear, the likes of Dubravka, who is 31-years old, would never in a million years be handed a six-year deal, another example of how Bruce has been able to twist Ashley’s arm.
He is never going to be Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp and he still has plenty to prove this season now he’s been handed a very capable set of players and proven striker, but he’s a trier and he’s one of us. It is evident that he genuinely wants to succeed on Tyneside and after a solid first campaign, it is only now that we should just him fairly with his own stamp we’ll and truly placed on the team.
He has his faults and he certainly won’t ever be perfect, but Bruce is making progress and really starting to grow on me as a manager.