Newcastle United are in relegation trouble and big changes are needed

Same old, same old. Surely it’ll take more than an extra first-team coach to get Newcastle United out of this mess.

Saturday, 23rd January 2021, 10:09 pm

Bigger changes at the club are needed if this team is to be playing Premier League football next season.

Steve Bruce’s side will need to show more fight, and be far better organised, if it is to pull away from relegation trouble. Right now, the club’s getting pulled downward, and tonight’s 2-0 defeat means fifth-bottom Newcastle have gone 10 games without a win.

Fans fear things will get worse before they get better.

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Steve Bruce.

The club, which entertains Leeds United on Tuesday night, is looking to add Graeme Jones, a first-team coach at Bournemouth, to Bruce’s coaching team. However supporters – who digested the news that former manager Rafa Benitez is now available before the game following his departure from Dalian Professional – want a managerial change at St James's Park following a dismal few months on the field.

The hard-to-beat side that Benitez at United built is now a distant memory.

Up to now, owner Mike Ashley has backed Bruce, but the club’s top-flight status looks to be again at stake at the halfway point of the season.

And fans aren’t relishing another joyless few months supporting their team amid a pandemic which has kept them out of St James’s Park for almost a year.

Bruce, sacked as Villa manager in October 2018 following a poor run of results, made four changes to the team following Monday night’s defeat to Arsenal.

Fabian Schar, Jeff Hendrick, Isaac Hayden and Javier Manquillo came into the starting XI, while fit-again Allan Saint-Maximin was named on the bench along with Ryan Fraser, back from a one-game suspension.

Dean Smith – who succeeded Bruce at Villa Park, and took the club into the Premier League – had a chat with his United counterpart before the game at the empty stadium. Smith, by contrast, is under no pressure following a positive first half to the season, while Bruce has it all to do if he is to keep his job – and keep Newcastle in the top flight.

Newcastle went behind in the 13th minute. Fabian Schar failed to deal with a Matt Targett cross from the left, and Olly Watkins beat Karl Darlow to the ball and headed it home.

Andy Carroll, partnering Callum Wilson up front, was United’s biggest threat at the other end of the pitch from a series of balls into the box.

Villa, pressing high up the pitch, got a second goal before the break after Karl Darlow punched away a corner. The ball was worked to Jack Grealish on the left, and his low cross was fired home off the crossbar by Bertrand Traore.

It had been too easy for Villa, who repeatedly attacked down United’s right side. Newcastle did make it harder for Smith’s team after the break – Miguel Almiron, for one, chased every lost cause – and Bruce sent on Saint-Maximin and Fraser in the 71st minute. Dwight Gayle followed them on to the pitch.

They threatened, but it was too little, too late.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow, Manquillo (Saint-Maximin, 71), Schar, Lascelles, Hayden, Lewis, Shelvey, Hendrick, Almiron, Carroll (Fraser, 71), Wilson.

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