Are Newcastle United right to stick by Steve Bruce? Liam Kennedy and Miles Starforth tackle that issue & more in our NUFC Q&A
A season of Newcastle United lows hit a new one on Saturday evening when Steve Bruce’s Magpies were taken apart by fellow Premier League strugglers Brighton and Hove Albion.
That result brought the future of Bruce again into the spotlight – but Sunday brought the news the club would, as expected, be sticking by their man, most likely for the remainder of the Premier League season.
So, we asked writers Liam Kennedy and Miles Starforth, who was at the Amex Stadium at the weekend, for their thoughts on Bruce and United’s prospects of starting next season in the second tier.
Why are Newcastle United sticking by Steve Bruce?
LK: “Well it isn’t common sense. But there does seem to be some method in their madness. It remains absolute madness in my view. There was a theory floated a few weeks back suggesting that United’s decision-makers think change can be more disruptive than sticking by their man. And I think that’s what they’re doing. Looking at past experiences of sacking Steve McClaren in 2016 and bringing in Alan Shearer in 2009, they would be correct in pointing out Newcastle got relegated. But when they stuck by the likes of John Carver and Alan Pardew, United remained in the division. The logic is flawed but I can see where they may be coming from. One thing that also can’t be discounted is that Mike Ashley likes Bruce. They seem to have a positive relationship and the man at the top seems to keen to stick by a head coach he had a personal hand in appointing back in 2019.”
MS: “This, let’s be clear, was very much Mike Ashley’s decision. Ashley likes Bruce, and has a good relationship with him. Ashley admires his “passion” for the club, and believes he has the necessary experience to guide the club away from trouble. There are clear flaws in Ashley’s thinking, and it’s not clear whether this decision will be revisited if results do not improve. Time, however, is not on the club's side."
Are they right to do so?
LK: “No. Bruce’s two years at United have been nothing short of awful. The last four months the worst of that period. Two wins in 20 is a disgrace, plain and simple. He needs to go. But he won’t. They will stick all season. Their chances to twist are running out – although it is never too late until it’s actually too late. And we’re not there yet. Although, games are running out. It is nine left for United and eight for Fulham. The Magpies are simply hoping the Cottagers are worse than they are in this relegation run in. On a whim and a prayer, as they say.”
MS: “No. Bruce’s position is untenable after a run of two wins from 20 games in all competitions. It’s arguably too late for any kind of meaningful managerial change, but a change is surely better than no change. Things have been unravelling on and off the pitch since December, and a change is urgently needed.”
Can the manager turn this situation around?
LK: “Of course he can, but it looks pretty grim. Bruce seems to have very few friends in the United dressing-room now. The players did not play for him, or for the badge at Brighton, but they’re not being helped by the ineptitude on the touchline. Bruce needs to put out fires he started with the players. That would be a start to turning things around. A win, any kind of win, would go a long way, too. No game should be written off this season, mentality needs to change. If Fulham and others like Burnley and Brighton can wins games at the likes of Liverpool than why should United always go into these games beaten before a ball is even kicked? Lockdown, no fan football has been a real leveller for virtually every team in this division, apart from Newcastle United. You feel they will need to get a result or two in some of the tougher games left to ensure they’re a Premier League side for another season, come what May.”
MS: “On the evidence of Saturday night, the answer to that question is no. Yes, Graeme Jones has brought in a system which has given the team an identity, something Bruce’s United didn’t have until his arrival, but the system has proved too inflexible without the likes of Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron. Jones, however, does have the respect of the players, but are they still playing for Bruce?”
Do you believe Newcastle will avoid relegation this season?
LK: “Looking at their form, two wins in the Premier League since mid-December and I have to say no – that’s 18 top flight games. Unless that changes I think this last few months of the season is going to prove a long walk to the Championship. I sincerely hope it isn’t. of course. Newcastle United should be better than this, but under Ashley they’re not. Survival at all costs is what is needed, but I see more fight and desire in the fans than I do looking at Bruce or the players at the moment.”
MS: “It’s a coin toss, in all honesty. The momentum is with Fulham, but Newcastle, at least, still have their fate in their own hands. Looking for positives, the return of Wilson and Allan Saint-Maximin will strengthen United in the final third of the pitch, though their comebacks will have to be carefully managed. Wilson - and his goals - could be the difference between staying up and going down this season.”