A popular opinion on Tyneside over the past few months has been that Steve Bruce now has the tools to create an exciting Newcastle United side who should be able to play on the front foot.
Paul Merson and Roy Keane don’t think so, however.
Speaking before Sunday’s well deserved 2-1 win over Everton, the Sky Sports duo insisted that we do NOT have the players to excite fans or attack teams – despite over £100m being spent on our front line over the past few transfer windows.
Here’s what both had to say over the weekend, defending Steve Bruce’s decision to sit back and play on the counter:
“That is where Newcastle are [not having the players to do anything but play defensive football].
“They are not going to to go to Wolves and open the game up because Steve Bruce knows he hasn’t got that quality of player.
“They have got to pick games where they can get results in, that is where Steve Bruce has all the experience in the world.
“They can go to Wolves, make it hard for them…they can nick a point.
“That comes with experience and a young coach might think that they can go everywhere and play and entertain, hoping the fans don’t think he is a negative manager.”
“There was never any doubt in my mind that when Brucey got the job, he was going to do well at Newcastle, he is vastly experienced.
“I know Newcastle have been criticised for not being very exciting to watch but that is because I don’t think they have the players for it.
“I don’t think Newcastle have been exciting for years.
“Even when they were exciting they never won anything anyway, so I don’t know why everyone’s getting too worried about that.
“Brucey will do a very good job for Newcastle.
“His job when he went there was to steady the ship and fortunately, he got a few bob this summer to spend.
“I think there will be no worries about Newcastle, they will be around mid-table and that is down to Brucey.”
OK, Joelinton may not seem like the ‘£40m player’ he was billed to be, however I just refuse to accept these claims that we haven’t got enough about us to play front foot football and ‘have a go’.
Yes we can’t be gung-ho and would be picked off defensively if we were, but we have four attackers worth £20m plus each in Wilson, Fraser, ASM and Almiron.
Put it this way, any Premier League defence would be relieved to see us sit back and sporadically commit the odd body forward on the counter if they saw that amount of pace named on the opposition team sheet before a game!
In Bruce’s defence, we were much more solid at Wolves – and needed to be – then built on that by showing more purpose and adventure on the break against Everton, but this is something we have to build on.
Now he has a team with this much pace and potential in the final third there can be no excuses.
This is no longer a ‘Championship squad’ or a team with a front four of Joselu, Ritchie, Atsu and Kenedy – it’s an attack capable of pushing the top 10 and troubling any defence on its day, not one incapable of being ‘exciting’ as Keane suggests.
Results are what Bruce will ultimately be judged on, but he now has a team at his disposal capable of delivering points AND exciting performances.