Newcastle United are past the point of no return with Steve Bruce – and fans are thinking the unthinkable
Newcastle United have gone past the point of no return.
Not in terms of Premier League survival – the club’s fate is still in its own hands – but in terms of Steve Bruce and his position.
Mike Ashley decided to back Bruce in the wake of the shocking 3-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion before the international break – and there’s no going back now.
Bruce – whose position looked untenable following the loss at the Amex Stadium – will be in charge for United’s final nine Premier League games unless there’s a dramatic – and unlikely – change in stance from owner Ashley and the club’s hierarchy.
Few on Tyneside believe Bruce is the right man for the job between now and the end of the season, though it’s arguably already too late to make a meaningful managerial change.
A change, however, was arguably better than no change following the Brighton defeat.
Bruce pledged to take the club forward after succeeding Rafa Benitez at St James’s Park in the summer of 2019. United’s head coach, backed heavily in the transfer market by Ashley, has taken the team backwards this season.
The hard work of the Benitez era is in danger of being undone – and the buck stops with Bruce.
Yes, injuries and a Covid-19 outbreak at the training ground have affected Newcastle, but, ultimately, the team was in trouble long before Callum Wilson limped off against Southampton last month.
Bruce has also made some baffling selection decisions, and he chopped and changed tactics before the arrival of Graeme Jones in late January.
The team now has an identity, but the system brought in by Jones has proved to be too inflexible in the absence of Wilson and Miguel Almiron.
There are issues behind the scenes with a number of players, and Bruce’s man-management, understandably, has come under scrutiny in the wake of a well-publicised training ground row with Matt Ritchie.
A number of players, it’s claimed, remain “supportive and loyal”. These players, report the Daily Telegraph, have been infuriated by a number of damaging recent leaks.
The loyalty and support of all players, of course, should, above all else, lie with the club – and they must demonstrate this between now and the end of a troubled and troubling campaign.
This is about more than Bruce and his future. This is about the future of the club – and the players, whatever their views on Bruce, must accept that.
United’s squad should be capable of challenging for a top-10 place, yet the club has been teetering above the relegation zone for weeks now.
Another relegation is unthinkable, but fans are thinking the unthinkable after a run of two wins from 20 in all competitions..
Newcastle’s best chance of avoiding relegation seemingly lay with managerial change. That, we know, isn't on the agenda at St James’s Park – it’ll be too late to change course should things unravel further.
It’s up to the players to pull together – and pull the club out of trouble.