An open letter to Steve Bruce ahead of the Q&A on BBC Radio Newcastle he will be participating in at 6pm tonight.
First of all, thank you for taking the time to participate in an interview in which supporters can ask you questions directly. Having experienced the reaction you did when only 10,000 fans were in the stadium against Sheffield United last season, you can’t necessarily be expecting to be given an easy ride with everyone on your side, so it’s to your credit that you’d give up your time and hopefully provide the fanbase with some insight into your tenure at the club. Certainly, you have my sympathy, in that you are the ONLY senior figure at Newcastle United who ever says anything on the public record and therefore have every complaint about the running of the club placed at your door, perhaps unfairly.
With that being said, allow me to move on to the substance of this letter. Newcastle supporters will be deeply sceptical about a phone-in, having spent two seasons listening to pundits such as Chris Sutton, Robbie Savage and Simon Jordan regularly goad the fanbase and cherry-pick contributions from external sources. I would therefore like to present you with a list of questions in advance, that I hope you feel able to address. Newcastle fans have serious and legitimate questions about your management of the team and, with all due respect, we have little interest in which brand of custard you enjoy with your apple pie – the sort of fatuous, irrelevant nonsense into which radio phone-ins can descend.
Please find questions for your attention below:
- Why did you convince Matty Longstaff to sign a new contract, to then never play him?
- If Graeme Jones organises our tactics, which has been suggested by both the media and even your own players (Callum Wilson), what is your role in managing the team?
- Why do you persist with a formation that puts so many players out of position? Emil Krafth had never played centre back in his career before coming to Newcastle. Ryan Fraser has never played in central midfield. Murphy and Ritchie try hard, but they aren’t defenders. Why do you insist on putting square pegs in round holes and playing so many players in unfamiliar roles?
- We finished 10th in our first season back in the Premier League, relying on players like Joselu and Atsu to spearhead our attack. The squad is better now than it was then and you’ve spent a significant amount of money bringing in a number of your own players – why do you speak as if a top half finish is almost impossible and would be a phenomenal achievement?
- You said we finished top of “our league” last season, only below the elite. Why, in your mind, are the likes of Everton, West Ham and newly-promoted Leeds United “elite” teams with whom we can’t compete?
- You say your job is to improve us. Are you pushing for improvements to the training ground, academy and stadium? St. James’ Park doesn’t look like it’s been cleaned in a decade. That obviously isn’t your responsibility, but do you raise these issues with those above? Are you trying to help fans to have facilities of which they can be proud?
- What would you say to fans who feel you got the Head Coach job because you wouldn’t demand improvements from the owner and managing director?
- Why did you choose to sell Florian Lejeune when he proved his fitness last season and performed very well? In our opening game, we had to use a right-back in central defence – does that not demonstrate poor squad-building and management?
- We only managed 3 shots on target against West Ham. How will we score enough goals this season when only Wilson can realistically be relied upon to get double figures?
- What is your rationale for sticking with five at the back when defensively we continue to regress? You inherited a squad that had the 7th best defence in the league when you arrived, yet we are now near the bottom of the league in every defensive metric, such as goals conceded, opposition touches in our box etc. Why are we sticking to an approach that is taking us backwards?
- In every press conference, you seem to talk the club down and try to lower expectation. You talk about “big, huge clubs” and having to wait for them to do their transfer business before we can possibly do anything. Pre-match, your tactical comments just seem to involve “hoping” we can do well. As I mentioned, we had the 7th best defence in the league before you arrived and that has disintegrated. Why should fans believe you’re capable of managing Newcastle United in the Premier League?
- The squad is the same as the end of last season. We shipped four goals against West Ham, had 37% possession and managed just three shots on target. The stadium is filthy. The training ground hasn’t been developed in decades. Fans are being charged £65 for a replica shirt. It seems to me there is zero investment in the club, yet fans are expected to pay a premium. What is the club doing to attract or retain fans? What reasons would you, as Head Coach, give people to continue turning up and spending their money on NUFC?
- Has Dwight Gayle signed a new 3-year contract? If so, why was it never confirmed to the fans? Don’t you think the lack of communication shows contempt towards supporters? Also, why was this decision made when Gayle barely features in the first team and when he does, it’s often out of position?
- When we signed Andy Carroll, you said it was because we needed cover up front. We’ve now released Carroll and sold Muto, without signing another attacking player, yet now you say we’re strong enough up top. Why? That doesn’t appear to make any sense.
- We were 2-1 up at half time against West Ham, yet utterly capitulated and lost the second half 3-0. What was said at half time and what exactly was the game plan? Even without the penalty, West Ham hit the post and were all over us. Why did we fall apart so badly?
- You said recently “We won’t improve overnight”. This is your 3rd season at Newcastle United. You’ve been Head Coach approaching 800 days. Isn’t it patronising to suggest you’ve not had time to make us better, and what would you say to fans who think we haven’t improved at all in your time here? If we’ve seen no progress in nearly 800 days, why should we be hopeful of seeing any going forward?
The Loyal But Demoralised Fanbase of Newcastle United FC