This game could change everything for Steve Bruce at Newcastle United – here's why
Dean Smith says Steve Bruce deserves “respect” on his return to Villa Park. But will he get any? And from where will it come?
Smith spoke warmly of Bruce as a manager and man ahead of Newcastle United’s game against Aston Villa tomorrow night.
Bruce, however, knows he could get a frosty reception at the stadium.
The 58-year-old – who was dismissed as Villa manager in October last year after a poor run of Championship results – has spoken about the challenges he faced at the club ahead of his first return with Newcastle.
Bruce, of course, is more concerned with the present than the past, and he admitted when he took over at St James’s Park that winning over United fans would be a challenge in itself given the antipathy felt by some supporters towards his appointment as Rafa Benitez’s successor.
Speaking in August, Bruce said: “The supporters were right behind Rafa. Given time, I hope (it’s the same). I’ve said many times, I know I’m not Rafa and I’m not many people’s cup of tea.
“Hopefully, I can give them a team which, eventually, they will come round.”
Newcastle have been on the up since the club’s 5-0 defeat to Leicester City in late September. Bruce’s side are 14th in the Premier League table – and three points above Villa – with 12 games played.
Are supporters slowly coming round? Certainly, his name has not been chanted – yet.
But faced with a crowd hostile to their own manager, could United supporters vocally get behind Bruce as well as their team?
It would mean something to Bruce, who said last month: “After 950 games (as a manager) I would think you know to show some respect … I would like to think I know what I’m doing.”
Bruce might not get the respect that Smith believes he deserves from Villa fans, but the sold-out away end may well show a little respect – if his Newcastle team can maintain its recent good form.