Exposed: The Newcastle United myth Steve Bruce would like you & the media to believe…

One of the things that I’ve found levelled at Newcastle fans both in the media and by fans of other clubs is that we’re lucky to have Steve Bruce because he has stabilised our club and he is working with a group of Championship players. In fact, Steve would love you to believe that he’s working with a group of Championship players and that we are doing very well in the league because of this “fact”. We are encouraged to look at the context of our situation and then sit down and shut up because of it.

Well, I have taken that encouragement to heart and have decided to take a look at the context of our situation. Maybe we are just a group of Championship players playing above our level and Steve Bruce is a mastermind who is squeezing talent out of dry, lower-league sponges? Maybe we should be thankful for Steve Bruce because without him we would be surely relegated due to his stout, defensive set-up? Maybe we don’t understand the sport that we’ve been watching, loving and suffering since we were small children?

It would not surprise you to know that all of that is codswallop…

The first thing that I did was look up our players and find out about their playing history. I feel it is fair enough to question a player’s ability at times and whether they are good enough for what you need at that moment, but Bruce has been insistent on the line that a ‘nucleus’ of our squad is from the Championship and, to a degree, he’s correct but he fails to mention a few things:

  1. The Championship season was an anomaly for a good few of those players and they had been playing top flight football beforehand. We were in fact accused at times of having a Premier League squad for the Championship.
  2. 17 of the 26 man squad (M Longstaff inc.) did not play in the Championship season.
  3. For every player that did play in the Championship there is now a player equivalent that didn’t, meaning that complete reliance on that player is null.

Have a look at the statistics of our players and their experiences below. You’ll find that a majority of them have either been completely top flight established, top flight established and experienced a blip, or started lower league and worked their way up to top flight:

  • Martin DubravkaSlovakian international and not spent a single season in the Championship.
  • Ciaran ClarkOne season in the Championship and Republic of Ireland international. He has experienced one relegation with Aston Villa. Paul Dummett – One season in the Championship and Welsh International. He has experienced one relegation with Newcastle.
  • Matty Longstaff20 years old and only played in the Premier League.
  • Fabian Schär No seasons in the lower leagues except as a youth and Swiss international.
  • Jamaal LascellesTwo full seasons in the Championship at 21 years of age. Regular Premier League player and captain after that with one season in the Championship. Has played 101 games in the Championship with 58 of those being played in youth. To date, has played 115 Premier League games. He has experienced one relegation with Newcastle.
  • Andy CarrollYouth appearance in the Championship on loan to Preston North End and one full season in the Championship for Newcastle. Has appeared in 16 seasons of the Premier League. He has experienced one relegation as a youth player with Newcastle.
  • Jonjo ShelveyAppeared in the lower leagues for three seasons as a youth player before moving to Premier League Liverpool. Spent half a season on loan in the Championship from Liverpool. Has since been a Premier League player apart from one season in the Championship with Newcastle. He has experienced one relegation after half a season with Newcastle.
  • JoelintonHas spent no seasons in a lower league than the top league in the country. Allan Saint-Maximin – Has spent no seasons in a lower league than the top league in the country.
  • Matt RitchieRisen through the lower leagues until he played in the Premier League in 2015-16 with Bournemouth. Was then purchased as a Premier League player by Championship Newcastle to help with promotion. Promotion was achieved and he has since been a Premier League regular. He has experienced two relegations at a reasonably young age with Portsmouth and Swindon.
  • Dwight Gayle122 Premier League appearances and 160 lower league appearances. Only 71 of the lower league appearances occurred after becoming a Premier League player when he was purchased by Championship Newcastle from Premier League Crystal Palace, and, when he was loaned to Championship West Brom from Premier League Newcastle.
  • Callum WilsonPlayed in the lower leagues up until the age of 23 where he has since plied his trade in the Premier League. He has experienced one relegation as a youth player with Coventry and one relegation with Bournemouth.
  • Isaac HaydenPlayed for two championship teams up until the age of 22 (Hull and Newcastle). Was purchased from Premier League Arsenal by Championship Newcastle. Since his second season in the Championship, he has played four consecutive seasons in the Premier League.
  • Jamal Lewis22 years old and has been in the Premier League since getting promoted with Norwich. Northern Ireland international. Heavily linked with Liverpool before signing for Newcastle. Experienced one relegation with Norwich.
  • Jeff HendrickConsistent Championship player until the age of 25 when he signed for Premier League Burnley in the 2016-17 season. Consistent Premier League player since and Republic of Ireland international.
  • Emil KrafthSwedish international who hasn’t played in a lower league team since making his debut aged 17.
  • Federico Fernández – Former Argentine International who has only played one game in the Championship for Swansea before being bought by Newcastle United. Has played all but one of his games in the top division of the respective countries. Experienced one relegation with Swansea.
  • Javier ManquilloHasn’t played in a lower league team since playing for Atlético de Madrid B in his youth. Experienced one relegation on loan to Sunderland.
  • Ryan FraserScottish international who moved from Scottish Premier League to League One Bournemouth in his youth. Promoted with Bournemouth to the Championship and then to the Premier League. Spent one season on loan to Championship Ipswich and has now been a consistent Premier League player for 5 seasons. He has experienced one relegation with Bournemouth.
  • DeAndre YedlinUSA international who has spent one season in the Championship after Championship Newcastle purchased him from Premier League Tottenham.
  • Jacob MurphySpent a majority of his career in the lower leagues on loan and has only spent one full season not on loan in the Championship for Norwich which led to the purchase of him from Newcastle. Experienced two relegations as a youth player with Norwich.
  • Miguel Almirón Paraguayan international who has spent no seasons in a lower league than the top league in the country.
  • Karl DarlowNewcastle’s second choice goalkeeper who is currently playing well enough to be considered first choice. Played in the Championship for Nottingham Forest until moving to Premier League Newcastle. Experienced one relegation with Newcastle as a fringe player and became first choice in the following Championship season. Has been in the Premier League since.
  • Mark GillespieThird choice keeper. Played consistently in the lower leagues of England before moving to Scottish Premiership side Motherwell. Signed for Newcastle from Motherwell after his contract expired.
  • Sean Longstaff 23-year-old who has played one season in a lower league for Blackpool on loan. Has played in top flight football for Newcastle and Kilmarnock.

So, like myself, you probably are pointing out a few players in that list that you would define as ‘not good enough’, and I certainly have frustrations with players such as Jonjo Shelvey, but I think what can be clearly shown here is that the point of them being defined as “Championship players” isn’t really something that tracks with a majority of them listed here.

All Premier League teams have players that cause frustration and are underwhelming, it’s a fact of footballing life. Also, we definitely have players that wouldn’t stand a chance of reaching a top 6 side but we do have players that have arguably played enough top flight games to be considered a top flight player. A lot of these players were either bought for the Premier League or bought from the Premier League and that fact alone, regardless of personal feelings about ability, firmly dismisses the notion that Newcastle are being squeezed up to unfathomable heights by a Steve Bruce masterplan.

But what of Steve Bruce? He’s been more than keen to tell fans and media how his players are full of effort but don’t have the footballing ability to follow his plans, so what about his managerial ability? If you were to ask any pundit represented by agent, Sharron Elkabas then you would be promptly told that he’s “a top manager”.

I’m going to be kind here and presume that “top manager” refers to being an established Premier League manager and not in the echelons of Klopp or Guardiola, so let’s have a look at a snapshot of his career:

Steve Bruce –

  • 2nd July 1998 to 17th May 1999 – Sheffield United – 40% win rate – First Division (Championship) – Failed to gain promotion – Resigned.
  • 24th May 1999 to 16th October 2000 – Huddersfield Town – 37.9% win rate – First Division (Championship) – Failed to gain promotion in first season – Sacked the following season.
  • 4th April 2001 to 29th May 2001 – Wigan Athletic – – 37.5% win rate – Second Division (League 1) – Failed to gain promotion – Left for First Division Crystal Palace.
  • 31st May 2001 to 2nd November 2001 – Crystal Palace – 61.1% win rate – First Division (Championship) – Left less than three months into the season – Left for Birmingham City.
  • 12th December 2001 to 23rd November 2007 – Birmingham City – 37.0% win rate – First Division (Championship) – Won the play-offs to gain promotion to Premier League – 4 seasons in the Premier League before relegation – Gained automatic promotion from Championship – Left for Wigan Athletic.
  • 26th November 2007 to 3rd June 2009 – Wigan Athletic – 33.8% win rate – Premier League – Two seasons of safety – Left for Sunderland.
  • 3rd June 2009 to 30th November 2011 – Sunderland – 29.6% win rate – Premier League – 2 and half years as manager (including a winless run of 14 games in his first season) – Sacked by Sunderland.
  • 8th June 2012 to 22nd July 2016 – Hull City – 40.8% win rate – Championship – Automatic promotion from Championship – Relegated after two seasons in the Premier League – Won promotion via play offs – Resigned before Premier League started.
  • 12th October 2016 to 3rd October 2018 – Aston Villa – 45.1% win rate – Championship – Failed to succeed despite significant spend – Sacked by Aston Villa.
  • 1st February 2019 to 15th July 2019 – Sheffield Wednesday – 38.9% win rate – Championship – Managed 18 games – 38.9% win rate – Left for Newcastle United.
  • 17th July 2019 to Please God, Make It Stop – Newcastle United – 32.3% win rate – Premier League.

Bruce has managed eleven clubs in total and only three of them have been Premier League teams by time of hiring (Wigan, Sunderland and Newcastle), meaning that he has been employed by eight lower league clubs (72% of his hiring). Fundamentally, this shows that he is valued more and seen as more obtainable by lower league clubs than he is by Premier League clubs.

Newcastle have been the highest placed to team to ever hire Bruce after finishing 13th the season before. Wigan had just finished 17th after hiring Bruce and Sunderland 16th. I will concede that his stock was high enough during his Birmingham career for Newcastle to consider him as a replacement for Bobby Robson but ultimately, that didn’t happen and it was so early in his managerial career that he hadn’t yet had the opportunity to fully show how subpar he is.

He has succeeded in promoting both Hull City and Birmingham City twice but was also a big part of the reason they were put into a position that they had be promoted again (he relegated them).

Despite managing in the Premier League for what is the equivalent of twelve seasons (446 games played, divided by 38 – rounded up from 11.7 to 12), he has only succeeded in breaking the Top 10 twice, with the last occasion being with Sunderland during the 2010-11 season which means that he can be truly defined as a Top 10 manager for 16.6% of his entire Premier League career.

The statistic that we all know and loath of course, is that he has the second lowest win rate in the Premier League next to Bryan Robson.

All of these things are separate from what we can see with our eyes. We know that he’s not a good manager and we know that he’s stealing a living managing us while insulting us, our players and excusing himself but apparently, we’re not worth listening to due to our “histrionics” and the fact that we’re a “vocal minority”.

Well, take solace in the fact that Steve Bruce can’t defeat facts. He and his media friends can lie about them all they want but the facts tell the truth.

So, what’s the takeaway from all these numbers, dates and statistics? Well, at the very least, it proves that the squad players of Newcastle are not simply defined as “Championship players”, it proves that a majority of the Premier League have had no serious interest in hiring Steve Bruce as their manager, and it raises the question of how pundits define “top manager”.

We don’t have a Championship squad, we have a Championship manager.

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15 thoughts on “Exposed: The Newcastle United myth Steve Bruce would like you & the media to believe…

  1. That is one hell of an article because apparently Bruce called them Championship players.

    Funnily enough, I remember Rafa saying similar about the majority of names on that list too – and not many challenged it.

    I know we overlook the fact Bruce is performing very similarly in terms of points return – but Bruce has Wilson, but Rafa had Rondon. So I think squad wise they were fairly similar at their strongest … does that make Rafa a Championship manager?

    For the record, I would like a better manager than Bruce in. But I’d also like better players. I just get bored of reading Bruce getting battered unnecessarily.

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  2. Sharpy17:
    That is one hell of an article because apparently Bruce called them Championship players.

    Funnily enough, I remember Rafa saying similar about the majority of names on that list too – and not many challenged it.

    I know we overlook the fact Bruce is performing very similarly in terms of points return – but Bruce has Wilson, but Rafa had Rondon.So I think squad wise they were fairly similar at their strongest … does that make Rafa a Championship manager?

    For the record, I would like a better manager than Bruce in.But I’d also like better players.I just get bored of reading Bruce getting battered unnecessarily.

    Benitez said it when he had Joselu up top and Atsu, Kenedy and Ritchie as options out wide.

    Bruce and so many of the media talk about the current squad like it just isn’t capable of playing attacking football – yet we’ve had over £100m spent on our attack , a proven PL striker and several exciting wingers.

    I just think it’s the biggest myth going when the media suggest we haven’t got the squad to be any better than what we are under Bruce. It’s nonsense now our squad is stronger than it’s been in almost a decade.

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  3. Olly Hawkins: Benitez said it when he had Joselu up top and Atsu, Kenedy and Ritchie as options out wide.

    Bruce and so many of the media talk about the current squad like it just isn’t capable of playing attacking football – yet we’ve had over £100m spent on our attack , a proven PL striker and several exciting wingers.

    I just think it’s the biggest myth going when the media suggest we haven’t got the squad to be any better than what we are under Bruce. It’s nonsense now our squad is stronger than it’s been in almost a decade.

    Olly – in keeping with this article that you clearly defend then – Atsu, Kenedy & Joselu haven’t spent much time in the Championship between them either.

    But let’s be right – £40m of the £100m was spent on Joelinton who was signed before Bruce got there.
    He may have spoke well of the lad, or claimed he was happy to sign off on it – whoever believes that is mad.

    Also, how much has Bruce been able to play ASM & Fraser this season?. Can you fairly say that Bruce has been able to play his strongest 11 at all this season – nevermind constantly?!

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  4. I’d also point out Olly that all of the players you mention for Rafa – he himself signed.
    Bruce did not sign Ritchie, Murphy, Joelinton, Atsu or Almiron.

    If Bruce could get ASM and Fraser on the pitch together, along with Wilson then that could be a very different prospect.

    However, I still think our weak midfield would make it difficult to be fair. I think that needs the upgrade of 2 very decent players in there.

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  5. Sharpy17:
    I’d also point out Olly that all of the players you mention for Rafa – he himself signed.
    Bruce did not sign Ritchie, Murphy, Joelinton, Atsu or Almiron.

    If Bruce could get ASM and Fraser on the pitch together, along with Wilson then that could be a very different prospect.

    However, I still think our weak midfield would make it difficult to be fair.I think that needs the upgrade of 2 very decent players in there.

    Hi Sharpy,

    While I think it’s fair to point out Rafa saying the same thing, I think context needs to be brought into consideration. Every manager worth his salt would want to improve his squad and add to it because helps things to stop going stale and brings in new ideas. Rafa was in a situation where he could only dream of the outlay that Ashley has provided Bruce and it seems to me that the way he believed he could achieve any sort of backing was to point out the deficiencies and make his case, he had to, in his words “wheel and deal”. He did this consistently and not just as an excuse because we played badly. His quotes on player recruitment was always within in the context of how other teams were spending and competing in comparison to Newcastle. Rafa was clear from the outset that we were not to be considered ‘a stepping stone’ and that we should push for something more.

    I’d also say there’s a lot of ifs and coulds surrounding Bruce there, and past management would suggest that use of those players like Fraser or St Max wouldn’t necessarily result in successful football. Remember that it was heavily reported that St Max was about to be dropped before the injury and Covid situation, and also remember how poor St Max was in that No.10 role.
    Bruce has a core of players now that have spent the majority of their Newcastle careers in the Premier League. I agree that there’s deficiencies that need to be mended but he cannot define them as Championship players to cover up his own inadequacies because it’s simply not true especially as he is experiencing backing from Ashley that Benitez did not.

    I do agree that our midfield is a weak area for us but, again, I would point towards those same players playing a whole lot better under Rafa. It was Hayden and Longstaff combining which gained us so many plaudits in the latter half of Rafa’s last season. The fact that we’re so weak there now suggests to me that their roles aren’t as clearly defined as they once were.

    The fact is, these players have proved that they can do a job when called upon and Bruce’s history has proved otherwise.

    P.S. I don’t believe Bruce signed Joelinton but the idiot insisted that he did and he has to cop it. In his interview when Joelinton signed, he actually said that someone in his team had seen Joelinton play “one” game against Man City and he seemed pretty content with that being enough information.

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  6. Jonny: Hi Sharpy,

    While I think it’s fair to point out Rafa saying the same thing, I think context needs to be brought into consideration. Every manager worth his salt would want to improve his squad and add to it because helps things to stop going stale and brings in new ideas. Rafa was in a situation where he could only dream of the outlay that Ashley has provided Bruce and it seems to me that the way he believed he could achieve any sort of backing was to point out the deficiencies and make his case, he had to, in his words “wheel and deal”. He did this consistently and not just as an excuse because we played badly. His quotes on player recruitment was always within in the context of how other teams were spending and competing in comparison to Newcastle. Rafa was clear from the outset that we were not to be considered ‘a stepping stone’ and that we should push for something more.

    I’d also say there’s a lot of ifs and coulds surrounding Bruce there, and past management would suggest that use of those players like Fraser or St Max wouldn’t necessarily result in successful football. Remember that it was heavily reported that St Max was about to be dropped before the injury and Covid situation, and also remember how poor St Max was in that No.10 role.
    Bruce has a core of players now that have spent the majority of their Newcastle careers in the Premier League. I agree that there’s deficiencies that need to be mended but he cannot define them as Championship players to cover up his own inadequacies because it’s simply not true especially as he is experiencing backing from Ashley that Benitez did not.

    I do agree that our midfield is a weak area for us but, again, I would point towards those same players playing a whole lot better under Rafa. It was Hayden and Longstaff combining which gained us so many plaudits in the latter half of Rafa’s last season. The fact that we’re so weak there now suggests to me that their roles aren’t as clearly defined as they once were.

    The fact is, these players have proved that they can do a job when called upon and Bruce’s history has proved otherwise.

    P.S. I don’t believe Bruce signed Joelinton but the idiot insisted that he did and he has to cop it. In his interview when Joelinton signed, he actually said that someone in his team had seen Joelinton play “one” game against Man City and he seemed pretty content with that being enough information.

    Thanks for this mate, but it just continues to read that you don’t like Bruce & nothing else matters.
    You offer context for your Rafa points then call Bruce an idiot.

    You offer ifs & should’ves for Bruce – well here’s one. Maybe if Rafa stayed HE WOULD have got the money Bruce got – but like Bruce, would have had to compromise on how it was spent.
    Rafa didn’t leave coz Ashley refused to back him, he left because the money wouldn’t have been spent exactly how he wanted it – and probably only Pep & Klopp get that luxury now.
    Do I think we’d be better signing Rondon instead of Joelinton – absolutely but equally Rafa made some shocking signings too and I wouldn’t give him 100% say on how my £100m was spent either.

    Rafa fans also conveniently rewrite history and credit Rafa with Longstaff & Hayden. Forgetting the fact Longstaff was heading out on loan & Hayden was being sold to Brighton before Shelvey, Diame & Ki all became unavailable for different reasons.

    You didn’t quite answer my question so I’ll ask again & hopefully draw some context – do you think Bruce has been able to pick his strongest 11 so far this season – let alone play it constantly?

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  7. Sharpy17: Thanks for this mate, but it just continues to read that you don’t like Bruce & nothing else matters.
    You offer context for your Rafa points then call Bruce an idiot.

    You offer ifs & should’ves for Bruce – well here’s one.Maybe if Rafa stayed HE WOULD have got the money Bruce got – but like Bruce, would have had to compromise on how it was spent.
    Rafa didn’t leave coz Ashley refused to back him, he left because the money wouldn’t have been spent exactly how he wanted it – and probably only Pep & Klopp get that luxury now.
    Do I think we’d be better signing Rondon instead of Joelinton – absolutely but equally Rafa made some shocking signings too and I wouldn’t give him 100% say on how my £100m was spent either.

    Rafa fans also conveniently rewrite history and credit Rafa with Longstaff & Hayden.Forgetting the fact Longstaff was heading out on loan & Hayden was being sold to Brighton before Shelvey, Diame & Ki all became unavailable for different reasons.

    You didn’t quite answer my question so I’ll ask again & hopefully draw some context – do you think Bruce has been able to pick his strongest 11 so far this season – let alone play it constantly?

    The frustrations with Rafa definitely started because of Ashley not backing him in the January Championship window. From there onwards, the only piece of significant money (£10m and over) that Rafa spent was £12m on Jacob Murphy, up until money was spent on Almiron, and we know (and have to accept) that the only reason that money was used was because of sell on value.
    There’s nothing to suggest that Ashley would’ve backed Rafa on something like the Wilson deal because the Rondon deal was basically a carbon copy of that but with Ashley only settling for a loan.
    We know too that Ashley offered Joelinton to Rafa and that he refused, citing that he wasn’t worth the money touted and that it could be reinvested somewhere else. So, while I agree to a degree that Ashley was probably willing to spend more money on someone like Joelinton (which we can only speculate on for the reason of his doggedness on this), I can’t agree that I think he would have backed Rafa in the way he has backed Bruce.
    Benitez is even credited saying how he was willing to work within the parameters of Ashley’s under-25 model and how he could gain profit from this like he did in Napoli but he was clearly not trusted to achieve this.
    I also believe it was George Caulkin who reported that Rafa was willing to work with the model of providing a list of players A to Z and allowing the rest to be done by Charnley etc. but that his frustration grew from constantly receiving the Z player on that list.
    I would say that “being backed” isn’t just a case of having large sums of money to play with but is being trusted when saying that (and this is hypothetical but I believe something around this to probably be the case) the £12m spent on a young player like Murphy along with the £5m spent on Joselu could be better invested into the money spent on a seasoned striker which is something that I think we’ve now seen with Bruce and Wilson.
    So, while Rafa may have been put in a position where he was afforded more money (something that I don’t personally believe would have been the case), the chances of him being allowed to invest that money into more seasoned players who wouldn’t necessarily provide sell-on value due to their age but would massively improve the team is close to zero.

    I agree that Rafa made some questionable signings but I would argue that they probably land on the later side of the alphabet list he had for players, given the outlay used on them. It’s hard nowadays to find a diamond or even really a decent player like Cabaye for under £10m but I would argue that he managed it with players such as Dubravka, Lejeune, Schar & Merino.
    Bruce, on the other hand, has been provided with players that have demanded a higher fee, have been wanted by other clubs and/or have had decent experience of the league. That’s something that I really struggle to see being something that would happen for Rafa in another timeline.
    Yes, there are some consistencies of recruitment under both managers, which is inevitable under the the same ownership, but there have been significant differences.

    I haven’t rewritten what life was like before Hayden and Longstaff started playing together because the way that they were playing together is the only important thing in my argument. They played very well under Rafa and were massively important in the improvement of our play but they have played generally poorly under Bruce.
    I think it also needs to be pointed out that Hayden potentially leaving was never because of his performances but was because of personal life.

    Do I think Bruce has been able to pick his strongest 11? Well, I think the question needs to be asked about what you would consider his strongest 11? He categorically hasn’t been able to this season because of Dubravka missing but I think you’re focusing more on the outfield players?

    For me, the strongest 10 is this:
    Manquillo Lascelles Fernandez Lewis (though I’m happy to see players like Clark at CB)
    Hayden Longstaff
    Fraser Almiron St.Max
    Wilson

    That is also in line with how Bruce reportedly wants to line up formation wise.
    The only regularly missing person there is Fraser and I don’t think it can be claimed that the failings of the team can all be down to the fact that one player is missing.
    Bruce had the opportunity to play that team against Wolves and he had the opportunity to play the majority of that team (bar Manquillo and Lascelles who have adequate replacements) against Leeds.
    So, in short, no I don’t think Bruce has picked what I consider to be our best 11 but I also think that has been down to a number of things of his own doing such as player positions, injury control and lack of a plan.
    It must also be said that, before his self-inflicted injury crisis, he was able to pick a pretty consistent team last year as well. Obviously, there is an asterix on that season due to the comparison of Joelinton to Wilson as a striker, but the issue of lack of a plan and quality of football has been consistent.
    This has been a constant complaint about Bruce from past fans too because he will insist on putting square pegs in round holes, so even if he did magically have all of his players available, all of the time, I wouldn’t bet on him fielding his “strongest 11” consistently and I wouldn’t bet on him knowing what his “strongest 11” actually is due to the lack of a clear game plan.

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  8. Bruce hasn’t always been able to field his best XI, but he’s also making good PL players go backwards.

    He throws players under the bus quite regularly to cover for his own limitations as a coach.

    The ‘my players aren’t good enough’ argument was valid under Rafa when he had a £5m striker (Joselu), a reject from Chelsea (with zero PL pedigree) on loan and many Championship players due to the fact Ashley was unwilling to back him with the necessary money to bring in proven PL quality, however it isn’t under Bruce when he’s got Wilson, Fraser, ASM & Almiron. That’s four £20m players. Compare that to the front four Rafa had the year he said we’d do well to stay up. No comparison.

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  9. Jonny: The frustrations with Rafa definitely started because of Ashley not backing him in the January Championship window. From there onwards, the only piece of significant money (£10m and over) that Rafa spent was £12m on Jacob Murphy, up until money was spent on Almiron, and we know (and have to accept) that the only reason that money was used was because of sell on value.
    There’s nothing to suggest that Ashley would’ve backed Rafa on something like the Wilson deal because the Rondon deal was basically a carbon copy of that but with Ashley only settling for a loan.
    We know too that Ashley offered Joelinton to Rafa and that he refused, citing that he wasn’t worth the money touted and that it could be reinvested somewhere else. So, while I agree to a degree that Ashley was probably willing to spend more money on someone like Joelinton (which we can only speculate on for the reason of his doggedness on this), I can’t agree that I think he would have backed Rafa in the way he has backed Bruce.
    Benitez is even credited saying how he was willing to work within the parameters of Ashley’s under-25 model and how he could gain profit from this like he did in Napoli but he was clearly not trusted to achieve this.
    I also believe it was George Caulkin who reported that Rafa was willing to work with the model of providing a list of players A to Z and allowing the rest to be done by Charnley etc. but that his frustration grew from constantly receiving the Z player on that list.
    I would say that “being backed” isn’t just a case of having large sums of money to play with but is being trusted when saying that (and this is hypothetical but I believe something around this to probably be the case) the £12m spent on a young player like Murphy along with the £5m spent on Joselu could be better invested into the money spent on a seasoned striker which is something that I think we’ve now seen with Bruce and Wilson.
    So, while Rafa may have been put in a position where he was afforded more money (something that I don’t personally believe would have been the case), the chances of him being allowed to invest that money into more seasoned players who wouldn’t necessarily provide sell-on value due to their age but would massively improve the team is close to zero.

    I agree that Rafa made some questionable signings but I would argue that they probably land on the later side of the alphabet list he had for players, given the outlay used on them. It’s hard nowadays to find a diamond or even really a decent player like Cabaye for under £10m but I would argue that he managed it with players such as Dubravka, Lejeune, Schar & Merino.
    Bruce, on the other hand, has been provided with players that have demanded a higher fee, have been wanted by other clubs and/or have had decent experience of the league. That’s something that I really struggle to see being something that would happen for Rafa in another timeline.
    Yes, there are some consistencies of recruitment under both managers, which is inevitable under the the same ownership, but there have been significant differences.

    I haven’t rewritten what life was like before Hayden and Longstaff started playing together because the way that they were playing together is the only important thing in my argument. They played very well under Rafa and were massively important in the improvement of our play but they have played generally poorly under Bruce.
    I think it also needs to be pointed out that Hayden potentially leaving was never because of his performances but was because of personal life.

    Do I think Bruce has been able to pick his strongest 11? Well, I think the question needs to be asked about what you would consider his strongest 11? He categorically hasn’t been able to this season because of Dubravka missing but I think you’re focusing more on the outfield players?

    For me, the strongest 10 is this:
    Manquillo Lascelles Fernandez Lewis (though I’m happy to see players like Clark at CB)
    Hayden Longstaff
    Fraser Almiron St.Max
    Wilson

    That is also in line with how Bruce reportedly wants to line up formation wise.
    The only regularly missing person there is Fraser and I don’t think it can be claimed that the failings of the team can all be down to the fact that one player is missing.
    Bruce had the opportunity to play that team against Wolves and he had the opportunity to play the majority of that team (bar Manquillo and Lascelles who have adequate replacements) against Leeds.
    So, in short, no I don’t think Bruce has picked what I consider to be our best 11 but I also think that has been down to a number of things of his own doing such as player positions, injury control and lack of a plan.
    It must also be said that, before his self-inflicted injury crisis, he was able to pick a pretty consistent team last year as well. Obviously, there is an asterix on that season due to the comparison of Joelinton to Wilson as a striker, but the issue of lack of a plan and quality of football has been consistent.
    This has been a constant complaint about Bruce from past fans too because he will insist on putting square pegs in round holes, so even if he did magically have all of his players available, all of the time, I wouldn’t bet on him fielding his “strongest 11” consistently and I wouldn’t bet on him knowing what his “strongest 11” actually is due to the lack of a clear game plan.

    Jonny – I’m no great fan of Bruce, but I don’t hate the bloke & I think any criticism should be balanced and fair. You make excuses for Rafa but that’s to be expected when your avatar is his face 🤷🏼‍♂️.
    You say Hayden was for personal reasons – wrong. It’s coz he was wasting away in the reserves and not getting a chance at first team football. If it was personal reasons why is he still at Newcastle?!.

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  10. Olly Hawkins:
    Bruce hasn’t always been able to field his best XI, but he’s also making good PL players go backwards.

    He throws players under the bus quite regularly to cover for his own limitations as a coach.

    The ‘my players aren’t good enough’ argument was valid under Rafa when he had a £5m striker (Joselu), a reject from Chelsea (with zero PL pedigree) on loan and many Championship players due to the fact Ashley was unwilling to back him with the necessary money to bring in proven PL quality, however it isn’t under Bruce when he’s got Wilson, Fraser, ASM & Almiron. That’s four £20m players. Compare that to the front four Rafa had the year he said we’d do well to stay up. No comparison.

    Olly – Rafa signed Joselu & Kenedy – he also signed Almiron by the way so can’t credit that one to Bruce.

    Rafa also allowed a lot of decent players to leave as well by the way.

    This world class manager couldn’t get the best out of players like Mitrovic, Mbemba, Mbabu – or develop young talent like Armstrong and Toney?!.

    Rafa will be credited with developing Hayden & Longstaff – but he had them rotting in the reserves with one foot out the door as well let’s not forget.

    How many players did he buy and develop? – who is so further forward thanks to Rafa? (If we are holding Bruce to account to making players go backwards?)

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  11. Sharpy17: Olly – Rafa signed Joselu & Kenedy – he also signed Almiron by the way so can’t credit that one to Bruce.

    Rafa also allowed a lot of decent players to leave as well by the way.

    This world class manager couldn’t get the best out of players like Mitrovic, Mbemba, Mbabu – or develop young talent like Armstrong and Toney?!.

    Rafa will be credited with developing Hayden & Longstaff – but he had them rotting in the reserves with one foot out the door as well let’s not forget.

    How many players did he buy and develop? – who is so further forward thanks to Rafa? (If we are holding Bruce to account to making players go backwards?)

    I think you’ve missed my point if you’re simply saying “but Rafa signed Joselu Kenedy”.

    Yes, he did sign both, but only because he was forced to shop in the bargain basement under Ashley after promotion! There’s no way on earth he’d have signed those two if we’d been able to get the sort of £20m+ deals Bruce has been handed in Callum Wilson!

    As Graham Carr said in a recent interview, you’ll get a few bad ones if you’re constantly left to shop in the bargain bin.

    You mention Mitrovic, Mbembe etc. but the former was clearly not pulling his weight (he’s been out of Fulham’s side for the same reason) and was comfortably outscored by Gayle in our promotion season. As for Mbemba, there was a lot said about him not following instructions well enough – and our defence over the two seasons back in the PL was very solid – so it feels like Rafa made the right call to stick with Clark, Fede, Schar, Lascelles, Lejeune etc.

    The Mbaby / Toney ones are frustrating I must agree, but it’s easy to say in hindsight now they’ve got the move and regular game time they needed. Think there’s been a big flaw in the club’s Academy / loan system for years when it comes to U-23’s.

    As for Rafa signing players and making them look better than they had done previously, I’d say Rondon, Manquillo, Fernandez, Clark, Lejeune, Dubravka, Schar, Merino, Hayden, Almiron all fit into that category, then there’s the likes of Lascelles, Dummett and Perez who also came on leaps and bounds under him.

    Yes, there’s plenty Rafa got wrong (Sels, Gamez etc.), but I think it’d have been a totally different story had Ashley backed Benitez with his top targets – something he’s had no issue doing for Bruce. Where were the 28-year-old, £20m+, PL proven signings like Wilson when Benitez was in charge? If only.

    I know you’re not pro-Bruce and anti-Benitez and simply wanting a bit of balance, but I just think there’s no comparison between the squad Rafa entered the PL with and the one Bruce has now.

    As for their ability to make players better / worse, I don’t think you could name more than three players Bruce has improved – yet there’s a whole list of names who’ve gone backwards since he arrived.

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  12. Sharpy17: Jonny – I’m no great fan of Bruce, but I don’t hate the bloke & I think any criticism should be balanced and fair.You make excuses for Rafa but that’s to be expected when your avatar is his face 🤷🏼‍♂️.
    You say Hayden was for personal reasons – wrong.It’s coz he was wasting away in the reserves and not getting a chance at first team football.If it was personal reasons why is he still at Newcastle?!.

    I don’t see how my criticism of him is unfair? I’ve backed everything that I’ve said about him with reasoning.

    The avatar was something that a made in the Championship season. It’s been connected to my email since then and I haven’t thought twice about it.
    I feel the ‘excuses’ of Rafa have all been backed up reasoning too. You’ll note that I’ve not been requesting Rafa back but simply asking for a manager with a clear plan and better tactical nous than Bruce.

    All reports regarding Hayden and quotes from him attribute wanting to leave because of personal reasons. It would be conjecture to suggest otherwise especially as he was still adamant on leaving right up to the end of the season.

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  13. Jonny/Olly – I’m not sure we will ever resolve this one. Olly – you hit the nail on the head, I’m neither pro Bruce or anti Rafa.

    I’d love to sit and have a pint and discuss it. I think we’d agree & disagree still but what’s great is we don’t resort to cheap name calling or disrespecting one another.

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  14. Sharpy17:
    Jonny/Olly – I’m not sure we will ever resolve this one.Olly – you hit the nail on the head, I’m neither pro Bruce or anti Rafa.

    I’d love to sit and have a pint and discuss it.I think we’d agree & disagree still but what’s great is we don’t resort to cheap name calling or disrespecting one another.

    I was thinking the same thing while replying to you. Really enjoyed just discussing it.
    Take care

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  15. Sharpy17:
    Jonny/Olly – I’m not sure we will ever resolve this one.Olly – you hit the nail on the head, I’m neither pro Bruce or anti Rafa.

    I’d love to sit and have a pint and discuss it.I think we’d agree & disagree still but what’s great is we don’t resort to cheap name calling or disrespecting one another.

    Well said mate, it’s nice to get stuck into a good chat without anyone getting nasty as you say. Sounds silly to have to say that, but that’s the toxic nature of online exchanges these days!

    Wouldn’t it be nice to be back in a pub, drinking a pint and chatting footy!

    Let’s hope those good days come back before too long mate 😀

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