• Callum Pattison

The Steve Bruce Circus: Enough is enough

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

It's crazy how the atmosphere surrounding one football can change so quickly. Just under a year ago it looked as if Newcastle United was finally about to be taken over.

The future was looking so bright. We had Saudi Arabian buyers coming in, led by Amanda Staveley, who were promising investment in every aspect of the club as well as investment into the city as a whole. On top of that, the other thing to celebrate was the fact that Mike Ashley would no longer have his hands on this famous club.

The Ashley era was set to end. The 13 years of turmoil would be over and, with that, this would also surely signal the end of Steve Bruce's lacklustre reign in the dugout. Yet here we are... approaching March 2021 and still we have Steve Bruce at the helm with no clear end in sight.

Obviously, the takeover didn't go through. We can thank the Premier League for that. That also means that nothing has changed on or off the pitch apart from the introduction of Graeme Jones to the coaching staff.

Tactically Inept

It's safe to say that when Steve Bruce got the job literally nobody jumped off their sofa in excitement. He's notorious for bland, insufferable football and that reputation has not changed in the 19 months where he has been in charge at Newcastle United.

He currently boasts a win percentage of around 30% since he has been at Newcastle - his only worse winning percentage that he has had as a manager came about a decade ago when he was in charge at Sunderland. Alarm bells should be ringing at that statistic alone.

Let's also take a look at Newcastle's last 14 games in the Premier League. 2 wins and 2 draws in those 14 games. That's 8 points in 42 games. So, not only are we losing a lot of games and have sleepwalked into a relegation battle but, Bruce has also shown time and time again that he has no 'Plan B'. Tactics? What tactics?

Whether we go behind or take the lead in a game, with Steve Bruce in the dugout, one thing will always be guaranteed... he will have no idea what to do. It's hard to even get excited when we score these days because you just know that he finds it incredibly difficult to set his team up to get results.

It's also incomprehensible to understand some of the team selections that we see on a weekly basis. Joelinton getting regular games in the Premier League is hope for all children out there. Children can tell themselves that no matter how bad they are, they can still play Premier League football one day. If Joelinton can do it, then a blind man with one arm and no legs can.

It's just baffling though that a forward who has 3 Premier League goals in 57 games still gets relied on every week. The £40m price tag obviously does him no favours, but he's just not good enough at the end of the day. A striker who is constantly on his heels and has the pace of snail is not the answer. Steve Bruce must see that.

Joelinton is not the only squad member with issues. Most of the squad has bad traits. The thing with bad traits is that they can be worked on and eradicated with the right man-management. Again, something that Steve Bruce is not renowned for.

Jamal Lewis has been beyond poor since signing from Norwich. I think Newcastle accidently put 5 too many zeros when negotiating the contract because £15m is a scam. His main issue, and I think the same can be said for Emil Krafth as well, is his positioning and marking. Half the time it's as if he isn't even there. Wingers just ghost past him with ease. I'm not a coach or professional footballer, in fact I'm far from it, but it is so painfully obvious to see that when he goes in for tackles he is standing flat-footed. He looks more interested in pulling his long-sleeve thermal over his hands to keep warm. Bless him. This is things that a good manager and coach would be able to fix though, right?

What about other issues in the playing squad that can be fixed with the right man-management? Shelvey and Hendrick spend too much time on the ball and ultimately lose possession way too much. Allan Saint-Maximum thinks he can carry the entire team on his

back and yes, he is definitely one of the most talented players in squad but sometimes he needs to understand when to pass and when to try and nutmeg six players in a row. Add Jamal Lascelles to the list as well. He has at least 3 mistakes in him every game - a very clumsy player. I'd mention the poor ability of the Longstaff brothers as well but thankfully they haven't been featured much lately.

Again though, every poor trait can be fixed and worked on. That's why it's clear to see who the best managers in the world are. Brendan Rodgers for example. He's not talked about enough but his management-style and tactics are head and shoulders above Steve Bruce.

The ultimate yes-man

This is one of the main problems, Steve Bruce is a yes-man. As is Lee Charnley. Mike Ashley literally has Steve Bruce on a string and is playing him like a puppet. It's obvious isn't it? For somebody that loves the club and claims to be a "life-long fan" he sure doesn't seem bothered about the dismal downward spiral that the club is heading in.

Every pre-match interview, every post-match interview, every press conference. It's all the same. He will act oblivious to the pathetic performances and come up with something ridiculous like "we will get enough points to stay up" or, when we get beat, there is always some kind of excuse.

He is content with being a contributing factor in driving this football club into the ground. That is not good enough. If he wants what is best for the club then he must surely be able to see what every single supporter is seeing. The fact that he is a part of the problem.

I'm also convinced that Bruce didn't want to ask for any funds in January because he doesn't want to upset Ashley. It's clear that we needed reinforcements in January but we only ended up Joe Willock - a loan deal where there is probably a 99% chance he will go back Arsenal and never play for Newcastle United again. Why were we incapable of bringing in more recruitments to set us up in the best possible way for staying up.

West Brom, another relegation rival, brought in Mbaye Diagne and Robert Snodgrass along with a versatile youngster in Ainsley Maitland-Niles. Why couldn't we bring in any more players other than a panic loan signing which only went through with about a minute left on deadline day? Fulham strengthened with Josh Maja, a player who has slotted straight into their team and will provide goals that they were initially lacking. Brighton have managed to get a work visa for South African forward Percy Tau as well as bringing in Moises Caicedo. That is worrying from a Newcastle perspective as we are having to rely on these teams around us to drop points.

Is it too late?

The pressure on Steve Bruce really started to heat-up in January after a pathetic display away at Sheffield United. A game where we were beaten 1-0 and thus gave Sheffield their first win in the Premier League this season.

You would think that a result like that, baring in mind the awful performances before that, would be the trigger to sack Steve Bruce. Yet that did not happen and we then backed up that shocking loss with defeats away at Arsenal and Aston Villa and then a home defeat to Leeds United. Surely now we sack him? No obviously not.

Now here we are with 13 games left. 3 points above the relegation zone with goal difference worse-off than the likes of Fulham, Brighton and Burnley. What is even more worrying, is that Fulham look to be hitting their stride and Burnley and Brighton's defences have became rock-solid.

Imagine we sack Bruce now. It is extremely likely that Graeme Jones would become Caretaker Manager until the end of the season. Right now, that has got to be a good thing. He has already shown since arriving at the club that he has fresh ideas. Also, during games, he's animated and involved on the touchline which is much more than what can be said for Bruce.

Jones has worked with Roberto Martinez for a large amount of his coaching career as well which is a nice thing to add to the CV. He has coached players at Wigan, where he won the FA Cup in 2013, Everton and the Belgian National Team. He's also had spells managing Luton and Bournemouth.

He's worked with a lot of players and has learnt a lot of different styles of play in his time.

In terms of being at Newcastle, I think he could potentially have a bit more to offer than Bruce.

It could be argued that there's been 2 times where we have brought in managers in the closing stages of seasons and subsequently been relegated however, I think it is a bit different on this occasion and here's why...

The 2008/09 season was chaotic. Kevin Keegan resigned after just a few games and unfortunately, we ended up wit Joe Kinnear. Kinnear left the role as manager in mid February due to ill health so up stepped Alan Shearer. Club legend? Absolutely! Good manager? Absolutely not. Shearer came in with 8 games to spare and had never managed a team in his life and did not have long at all to get used to the squad at the time.

In 2015/16 when we also got relegated, Rafa Benitez only had 10 games to keep the club up. Obviously that was always going to be a challenge and in the end, could not be done. Again, much like when Shearer came in, Benitez had not worked with the squad before and was thrown in at the deep end.

So let us imagine Steve Bruce gets the sack now or post-Wolves. That would leave Graeme Jones with about 12 games which would be more than enough because, he has the advantage of working with this current group of players since his arrival in January.

Right now it does seem like the best-case scenario. Sack Bruce, Graeme Jones has the ability to implement his ideas and hopefully, is able to guide us to safety.

Under Steve Bruce the circus show will just continue leaving supporters helpless to what is going on. Relegation is calling our name unless there is a big change in the dugout department.

Who knows though? We might just scrape a draw or fluke a win at home to Wolves in our next game and thus Bruce buys himself more time - prolonging the inevitable.

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