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:

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 –

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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