Michael Chopra responds to Steve Bruce's digs about his Newcastle United career – and 'lies' claim
Michael Chopra has hit back at Steve Bruce’s claim he “lied” about Newcastle United players not knowing their jobs – but says he hopes the manager is a success.
Chopra was critical of Bruce’s appointment at his former club – and, more recently, his tactics.
The striker drew an angry response from Bruce after claiming, on national radio, that “senior” players at the club had told him that some of the team “didn’t know their jobs” in the 3-1 defeat to Norwich City last month.
“I’m not taking notice of someone who’s played 20 games and scored one goal here,” said Bruce. “That disappoints me. Someone with a bit of credence, I can understand. We can all take criticism as long as its constructive. When it’s complete lies, that’s when its disappointing.”
However, Chopra – who was last week critical of Michael Owen, his former United team-mate, for “disrespectful” comments made in his new autobiography – stands by his extraordinary claim about the team’s performance against Norwich at Carrow Road.
“Obviously, what I said was the truth,” said Chopra, who retired as a player three years ago. “But he’s got to back his tactics, what he does with the team. He’s got to back his players.
“So, in a way, I wasn’t surprised (by Bruce’s reaction). He’s got to come out and say something. He’s got to come out and say it’s lies, because I’ve said something against his team and his tactics.
“I stand by it, because that’s what I got told. As a fan, I want what’s best for the club. When I get asked questions about the club, I’m honest. I won’t hold back.
“I don’t know Steve Bruce personally, so why would I not be honest with what I’ve said? Me as a football fan, I want what’s best for the football club.”
Chopra made 31 appearances and scored three senior goals for United during his senior career on Tyneside.
On Bruce’s comments about his career at the club, Chopra said: “I’ve scored more than one goal for the club, but that’s not the point.
“The point I’m making is that I have the right to an opinion like the rest of the fans. We support Newcastle United. He came out with that ‘why should I listen to an opinion if it’s not Alan Shearer?’. Does that mean the fans can’t have an opinion as they haven’t scored 206 goals?”
Chopra questioned Bruce’s managerial record in the Premier League after his appointment as Rafa Benitez’s successor.
However, the 35-year-old – who now works for a football agency in Amsterdam – insists that he doesn’t want to see the 58-year-old “fail” at his boyhood club.
“As a player, Steve Bruce was brilliant,” said Chopra. “He won many trophies. To play for Manchester United, you have to be a good player. I respect what he did as a player.
“From the outside looking in as a manager, you look at his record and it’s not Newcastle United credentials … coming from Benitez to Steve Bruce.
“But he’s the manager of my football club, and we want him to do well at this club. We don’t want to see the club fail. We don’t want to see the club relegated. As a fan, I’ve got the right to an opinion on my football club.”
Newcastle bounced back from the shambolic Norwich defeat and won 1-0 away to Tottenham Hotspur.
Bruce tweaked his formation, and the team put in a backs-to-the-wall performance in North London, where Joelinton found the net.
“You look at the performance against Norwich,” said Chopra. “It wasn’t up to scratch. It was a disgrace. It was the attitude. Fair enough losing, but at least give the effort.
“I said what I needed to say on the radio because that’s what I got told. You could see a totally different Newcastle United against Tottenham.
“Whether Steve Bruce and his coaching staff had worked on something in training … you could see something had been done on the training pitch. The team shape, the players knew their positions, their jobs. That’s what got them a result.
“That’s why Newcastle were successful last year. Benitez had drilled it into them. They’re going to play this way. Players don’t come out of position. This is what you do at certain parts of the game. Players knew their jobs. You could see that against Tottenham – everybody knew what they were doing.”
Chopra believes that performance, which was reminiscent of United at their best under Benitez, is the template for the team away from home this season.
“I know they spent a lot of money, but they don’t have any big superstars that are going to produce magic by themselves,” said Bruce, whose side drew 1-1 with Watford at St James’s Park in the Premier League last weekend.
“You need to get 11 players working as a team like they did against Tottenham, and hopefully hit somebody on the break. When you’ve got a player like Joelinton, who took his chance well against Tottenham … then you only need one chance.
“When you defend well as a team, you’re going to be getting results. You go in against Watford … it’s just like we were holding back as a team. Going 1-0 down in the first minute doesn’t help. They got a draw, and they need to build on these performances.”
Chopra will be watching closely this season.
“I still work in football on the agency side,” said Chopra. “I was a Newcastle United fan during my career, but you take more notice because you’ve got more time on your hands (after you retire).
“You go to games. You want to kick and jump and shout and everything. At the end of the day, it’s the team you support.
“It was my boyhood club growing up as a kid. You want what’s best for the football club. It’s just a shame Newcastle United are in the situation they are now.”