Newcastle United Austria tour diary – What Steve Bruce was 'fighting' against at the club, Eddie Howe's challenge
Newcastle United haven’t left these shores the past two summers.
The club’s pre-season staycations, of course, were as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Before then, Newcastle, then managed by Steve Bruce, had gone to China for the Premier League Asia Trophy, which saw the club play high-profile games in Nanjing and Shanghai against Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United.
And the club’s pre-season tour of Austria – the club is based outside Salzburg, and will play friendlies against 1860 Munich and Mainz 05 – should be, at least logistically, easier to cover for journalists.
The issue in the summer of 2019 was the so-called “Great Firewall of China”. Google, Facebook and Twitter are all blocked in the country – and that was an issue for reporters tasked with promoting tour content online and engaging with readers. The Premier League advised against use of these sites while in the People’s Republic.
It’s even more of an issue if your email system, office software and laptop are all Google-based – and nothing worked.
A new hope
While using social media was a no-no in China, those reporters who travelled were able to give an insight into the first days of Steve Bruce’s time as head coach through their copy.
Bruce, rejected as a kid by United, addressed fan reaction to his appointment at his unveiling at the team hotel on the banks Huangpu River.
“I was fighting against it then (as a young player), and I’m fighting against it again now, because I’m still not good enough, it seems,” said Bruce, who had left his post at Sheffield Wednesday to take the job.
At the time I wrote: “Only time will tell if Bruce is good enough for one of the toughest jobs in English football, though, importantly, he has the support of the players. Privately and publicly, they’re backing him – and themselves – to keep the club in the Premier League. That’s positive.”
Bruce’s relationship with some of those players did deteriorate over time, but he did keep the club in the Premier League for two years.
Just “ticking along”, however, isn’t good enough for Newcastle’s new owners – or the club’s fanbase. The challenge for Howe and his players is to take the club back to where it belongs.