Mixed messages, blurred lines & expletive-laden coach convos at relegation-threatened Newcastle United – Liam Kennedy’s SEVEN Magpies takeaways

When relegation is on the cards, any point gained can’t be dismissed – but was the Wolves draw one in the bag or an opportunity missed for Newcastle United?

Here our writer Liam Kennedy picks over his SEVEN takeaways from the 1-1 draw at St James’ Park...

Pray to the injury gods

United’s best three forwards are all in the treatment room today – the route to goals and points looks a whole lot worse for the Wolves result.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Steve Bruce, Manager of Newcastle United gives his side instructions during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers at St. James Park on February 27, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Richard Sellers - Pool/Getty Images)

It was one gained, but at what cost? At least Southampton had three at the end of it.

There is light at the end of the tunnel for Callum Wilson – he may be back by the end of the month, but United have three games between now and then, and there will only be nine to play after that.

Playing this trio without Wilson, Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, who was allowed to play on for more than 10 minutes with what sounds like a potential season-ending issue, is a remarkable prospect. Remarkably terrifying.

Injuries to key players seem to be hitting at just the wrong time for Steve Bruce. Maybe he’s lost that four-leaf clover.

What’s the answer?

If United are to persist with the formation that has served them reasonably well, then the options aren’t great.

Ryan Fraser is the only strong option to opt for from reserve, as shown by his consistently excellent delivery last night. Beyond that, Joelinton is probably going to keep his place but again, as was proven by his late poor finish, he’s not the answer to any of Newcastle United or Bruce’s questions.

The other spot? Dwight Gayle will want it, but Jacob Murphy looks to be the only true fit in an advanced area.

I really don’t think many Premier League defences will be too concerned with a frontline of Fraser, Murphy and Joelinton.

Could it be time for a switch up and an Andy Carroll reintroduction? United could do a lot worse. They could also do a lot worse than trust Gayle to score the goals, just like he did in lockdown mk1.

Don’t speculate on injuries – unless you’re Steve Bruce

"For Miggy to come off and be in the state he is in, we fear the worst,” Bruce told Sky Sports in the aftermath of the game in relation to Miguel Almiron’s knee injury.

Minutes later he then went on to say to the written press: "Let's hope it's not that bad... It's too early to speculate how serious it was."

Now I get it, he fears the worst but hopes for the best. We all do. But is that not speculation?

Some have criticised me on Twitter for calling that pedantic – but to me Bruce is the only man to relay messages to the fans, via the media. And this was as clear as mud.

If we’re not to speculate, then surely the best message from the club’s sole mouthpiece is to say: “The lad is going to have a scan and we will know more then.”

This PR stuff isn’t always complicated, but some make it look REALLY tough.

Coaching cracks showing or a poor representation of private a conversation

The video has again done the rounds on social media. We’ve had the Graeme Jones coaching one from Everton, and the Ole’love in’ from Manchester United, now it’s the Jones v Bruce “aww *expletive* off” one.

Was this two coaches in conversation, speaking of another situation, taken out of context, or was this genuinely a manager dismissing the coach brought in to help him?

Only the men involved know the true answer.

FOUR players called out – Bruce’s dangerous game

It’s a growing list.

Last week it was Karl Darlow’s ‘cardinal sin’ this time it was Matt Ritchie, Jamal Lewis, Martin Dubravka and Joelinton.

The former got the blame for the organisational mess that preceded conceding the goal – apparently he didn’t relay the message from the touchline right (in an empty stadium where every call can be heard loud and clear from the bench). Lewis and Dubravka got stick for the goal from Bruce, probably rightly, while Joelinton’s miss was one he should have scored and Bruce again rightly picked that out – well, if he wants to publicly shame the lads he has to get a tune out of.

It’s a dangerous game Bruce is playing, but a well-worn path for the head coach.

Jamaal Lascelles’ confusion in the post-match interview spoke volumes.

Next SIX to define season

Newcastle United’s next six games will define their season.

Relegation-threatened West Brom and Brighton, with Aston Villa are the next trio, not in that order. While usually winnable games at home against West Ham and Spurs (tough this season, I know) as well as a trip to Burnley make up the next half-dozen Premier League encounters.

If United don’t have at least another two wins on the board from those games, probably three needed, then their Premier League status, to me, will be precarious, no matter what Fulham et al do.

The reason? Because United then have four games that would usually be a ‘write off’ – Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester City and Man City, before the pressure-ridden final two against Sheffield United and Scott Parker’s men on the final day.

By April 17, we will probably know whether the drop is on the cards.

Relegation form

Two wins from their last seventeen is relegation form in anyone’s books.

Realistically United need to win another three games to be in with a shout of guaranteeing their Premier League safety. With so many key players missing it is hard to see where the goals for those victories will come from.

Alarm bells may not yet be ringing in the halls of power of St James’ Park, but they should be. They should have been deafening weeks back, months even. But not at this club. Always acting when it is too late, never proactive, always painfully slow to become reactive.

Wolves was never necessarily a ‘must win’ although it certainly felt like it in the build up. West Brom is much more so. It’s all about the accumulation of points, you know?

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