Just another boring week in the world of Newcastle United.
There can’t be many fans around the world who could have envisaged the upturn in form since the debacle down at the Amex stadium. At around 10pm on that fateful Saturday night in March, the general consensus was that the end of an error was finally upon us.
At that point, it looked impossible that Steve Bruce would keep his job, even at a club notoriously famous for inaction as Newcastle United.
It seemed he’d lost the dressing room, the fans and the local media. Even the national media big guns, often so supportive of Bruce were changing their tune. The usual suspects on Talksport, BBC and Sky Sports franticly retreated and scrambled around to find a variation of their ignorant and lazy narrative, that has been infecting our eyes and ears as much as most of the football we’ve had to endure since Bruce walked into the job. You know the one, it’s the one where they say Bruce has done a good job. That us as fans, and our unquenchable and unrealistic thirst for success and Champions League football makes managing Newcastle United one of the worst jobs in football.
A mere 6 weeks or so later, we’ve just given the PL champions a hell of a game, narrowly losing a seven goal thriller. Steve Bruce proudly, and deservedly, prowling the touchline after winning first manager of month award of his 23 year managerial career. All this coming on the back of a stunning win and performance at Leicester which secured our Premier League status.
Since that 3-0 mauling by Brighton, it’s been nothing short of a superb run of form, made all the more impressive by the calibre of opposition. Arsenal aside (which was horrendous), the performances have been an absolute level above what we’ve been used to under the guise of “Bruceball” for the large part of just under two years.
A pleasant combination of returning players, the growing influence of Graeme Jones, and Bruce finally getting his approach right, has resulted in a job excellently done. All involved, players, coaches, and of course Bruce, deserve huge credit.
In all honesty, he’s proved us all wrong, (in the short term) and did something he has actually never done, if you analysis his 20 odd year managerial career. He turned it around. He arrested a slide.
It’s something he was unable to do at all his previous clubs where he was either sacked, relegated, or walked, or sometimes a combination of those three.
Then last week, came the Talksport interview. With his stock higher than its possibly ever been amongst Newcastle fans, it should have provided an opportunity for him to humbly bask in rare positivity, admit mistakes, attempt to bring everyone together, end the season well, and head into the summer with some momentum.
Sadly, you can never underestimate the power of Steve Bruce’s mouth “throwing in a hand grenade” as he once famously accused his players of doing. Instead of displaying even a modicum of humility, he chose to mouth off whilst on top, go on national radio and display an astonishing amount of arrogance, lack of intelligence, and even less understanding of the very fans he claims to be one of. The overall reaction of Newcastle fans was one of insult, and so it should have been, particularly the “expectation” comment.
The “expectation” narrative is the kind of ignorant nonsense you’d expect from a pundit or fan with no knowledge or affinity for the club or area, not an actual manager of NUFC who actually hails from the region. Once again he just showed he just doesn’t have the slightest understanding about what makes Newcastle United, and it’s fans tick.
Of course, Thursday’s Man City press conference brought the familiar back tracking we’ve seen in the past from Bruce. This time, his poor vocabulary was apparently to blame, which is strangely one of the most plausible excuses he’s ever given, whilst still being nonsense. Then came a frankly nauseating, glowing appraisal of the very same fans he’s spent the best part of two years talking down to and contradicting himself to. It certainly hasn’t washed with many.
Predictably, it also hasn’t taken long for certain figures in the media to come out in light of Bruce’s award and the recent results. Acting in a similar vain to the way Bruce did on Talksport, they act the big “I am” when on top.
Articles, podcasts, interviews and tweets loaded with “where are you now” motives have surfaced in the past week or so. It’s the usual suspects leading the charge, and also as usual, being selective about their facts used in the defence of Bruce and criticism of us.
They typically ignore the most obvious fact that as the manager, Bruce should take responsibility for us fighting relegation in the first place. They try to lord it over us with like we’re actually annoyed to see him and our football team do well, when the whole reason for our anger is because we haven’t been since he took over.
Whilst the last seven games have seen an impressive points return, the fact remains that a Brighton win against West Ham tonight will put us back down to 17th in the table.
Bruce took over a team that finished 10th and 13th the previous two seasons before his appointment. He has spent the highest net spend of any manager in the club’s history, and the league table and every metric shows us to be a worse team. It is still very inaccurate to say Steve Bruce has done a good job as Newcastle United manger to date. It is still perfectly reasonable and validated by facts to say he is failing at his job.
The lack of confidence in him still exists because, frankly, we aren’t stupid enough to somehow think a couple of good months admonish twenty two bad ones. There’s also the small matter of his record as a Premier League manager, which is predominantly filled with failure over 23 years. So despite us all enjoying the last few weeks, and experiencing the strangest of feelings of actually looking forward to Newcastle games, the long term future of the club with Steve Bruce as manager is sadly still a cause for concern.
As for the usual suspects, you wonder if any of them actually do any research.
Jermaine Jenas thinks Bruce should set his manager of the month award down on the table in front of “certain journalists”, while his son Alex Bruce also criticised the “toxic journalist”.
It doesn’t seem presumptuous to assume it’s Craig Hope they are referring to. The Sportsmail journalist had the temerity to publish a story about Bruce’s training ground bust up with Matt Ritchie, which Bruce himself later confirmed as true. Winning a few football matches doesn’t suddenly make the truth go away. The daftest thing is that Ritchie has been instrumental in recent weeks, and Bruce does deserve credit for bringing him back into the team.
Instead of his childish radio outburst against Hope, when the truth suddenly became “negative and unbalanced”, Bruce should have turned it into a positive. He should have praised Ritchie’s performances since the fall out, and said how delighted he was that they patched up their differences. He should have been the bigger man and left it, but alas, Bruce’s skin is thinner than the defence of his managerial talents.
We also had Crystal Palace owner Simon Jordan claiming we are “mouthy cowards” after the backlash of Bruce’s interview on social media. It’s curious he takes such offence at the criticism of a man he once proudly bragged about “bringing to his knees”, after serving Bruce with an injunction after he left Palace for a better contract at Birmingham.
Then our old pals Chris Sutton and Robbie Savage, who only a few weeks ago were starting to wise up to the situation, said we’ve “got egg on our face” as a fanbase, and Bruce has fulfilled his remit.
Ah…..the old remit claim. I particularly love that old chestnut. When Steve Bruce took the job he was adamant he wasn’t just here to survive in the Premier League. He stated time and time again, that it was his job, and wish, to make progress and push us on. The top 10 was frequently mentioned by Bruce himself. The only time he said his job was simply to keep us in the League was when he displayed typically thin skin and snapped back at criticism after another defeat and poor performance.
Even Newcastle fan Neil Custis this week spoke some utter drivel about Bruce, that actually has to be heard to be believed. Watch the clip here:
What is lost on them, and his other media pals, is that while Bruce has proved most of us wrong (in the short term) by keeping us up, this upturn in form has shown we did in fact have every right to expect more from this squad than what we have seen for most of this season.
We have a very decent group of players, who are far better suited to attacking teams than the passive game plan that was far too long employed by a coach who seemed to blame his own shortcomings on others. It’s an accusation that’s been levelled at him at several of his other clubs.
So all eyes will now turn to St James Park next week when 10,000 fans will be able to attend the game against Sheffield United and voice their opinions towards our head coach. There isn’t a Newcastle fan out there who doesn’t hope we stuff them, but it’s also safe to assume there will likely be some unpleasantness towards the head coach.
It’s also safe to assume that according to some, including Bruce, it won’t be his fault.