Last night saw one of the worst performances that I have witnessed in the Mike Ashley era – and that is saying something.
For this to happen in our biggest game of the season so far is an embarrassment and every single person associated with that display tonight should be ashamed.
There wasn’t a single positive to take. I can’t praise any of the players. Paul Dummett showed a bit of heart. Martin Dubravka kept the score down and Miguel Almiron ran for the team, despite being clearly unfit.
Although the players didn’t cover themselves in glory, the criticism should be focused at the manager and the owner. If the owner shows little interest in maintaining the club’s Premier League status by allowing an out-of-depth manager to continue in a post he isn’t suited to, why should the players care?
This club is being allowed to drift into another avoidable relegation and it is completely what the owner deserves. Last night, we came up against the antithesis of Newcastle United. The only similarity is the positions in the table, albeit Brighton will now easily coast to safety.
They are a forward thinking club, who play in the right way and have ambition to push on in the Premier League. They have an excellent recruitment policy and they have an owner that likes to be transparent with the club’s supporters. During lockdown, they regularly held press conferences, despite football being halted. They deserve to stay in the top flight.
Meanwhile, we have employed an average Championship manager to oversee a group of Premier League players. Whatever you think about individual players, this is a squad that should be able to comfortably stay up in the Premier League. For the entirety of Steve Bruce’s reign, we have been one of the worst teams in the league. We have had some luck and avoided the bottom three, but that luck has now run out.
If Mike Ashley wants to own a Premier League club next season, he needs to act. Brentford felt like the right time. Sheffield United felt like the right time. Aston Villa away felt like the right time.
This is the last time. With the international break, there is a chance to get a new manager in and give them some time to get the players prepared for a crucial last nine matches.
It will be an unenviable task. Alan Shearer and Rafa Benitez have failed before and there are no guarantees that a new manager will keep us up, but if we keep Bruce, there is a guarantee of relegation. At least it gives us a chance.
Chris Wilder and Eddie Howe are on the market. The former would be my preference. He knows what tactics are and he is a manager that players will run through brick walls for. I think the players would quickly take to him and he would inspire a reaction.
If things didn’t go to plan, he would be the perfect manager to bring us straight back up.
The time for change has long passed, but there is still an opportunity to act. Ashley has to take it.