Steve Bruce believes we were “going along very nicely” and in with a chance of securing a top 10 finish until a COVID outbreak derailed our season.
The Newcastle boss has also blamed our inability to reach his pre-season target on injuries – bemoaning the fact we’ve had spells without ‘big players’ Callum Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin.
Amusingly, he claims that this ‘isn’t an excuse’…but that’s exactly what it is. The COVID outbreak was unfortunate, yet that’s impacted clubs up and down the country this season – and I’d argue that several of our injuries have been self inflicted due to bad player management and a lack of training if recent reports are to be believed!
Here’s what Bruce has said about his initial aim for 2020/21:
“The top ten (aim) was because we finished 13th and wanted to improve on what we accomplished last year.
“With the problems we have had, when I analyse the season, we were going along very nicely until COVID hit. And then the injuries to our big players have been a real big problem to handle.
“We are without three big players who we’ve spent a lot of money on.”
“That is what it is. That’s what we’ve been dealt with.
“I don’t think that is an excuse.
“We still have an opportunity to climb up the table and finish where we finished last year. I think all of us would accept that, take it now.
“It’s not what we set out to be but it is the way we are at the minute.”
OK, we moved to 10th when we beat Crystal Palace at the back end of last year (our last game before the COVID outbreak hit), but even the most optimistic Newcastle fans knew we weren’t playing nearly well enough to push for a top half finish.
In truth, we’d have been lucky to match last season’s finish back then, with the underlying stats and performance levels that of a team who’d do well to stay up.
COVID didn’t help and a few of the injuries suffered have been tough to cope with, however some of that has been self inflicted and Steve Bruce has ultimately ran out of luck – something that played a big part in us avoiding a dog fight last season.