Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce responds to potential criticism as fans return to St James' Park
Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce admits he’s not nervous ahead of the return of fans to St James’ Park for the first time in nearly 15 months – in fact, he’s relishing it.
Due to Covid restrictions supporters have been shut out of United’s ground since February 2020. The lifting of restrictions on Monday will see around a quarter capacity, around 10,000 fans allowed entry to SJP for the visit of Sheffield United tomorrow.
And one of the biggest questions on everyone’s lips is the reaction the under-pressure manager will get from supporters, as well as his team, after another season of struggle on Tyneside.
Bruce, full of praise for Newcastle United supporters, admits he’s not worried about it at all – and thinks fans will back his team against the Blades.
“No, no, no. None at all,” Bruce answered when asked if he had any concerns about the return.
"Delighted they are back in, whatever kind of reception I get.
“I know how much it means. It has been a really long time since we played with supporters. I see the play-off game and the FA Cup final, it makes it a different spectacle, it is like a different sport. I am delighted they are back.
“Come in, go to the pub, have a few beers and come and support my team.”
Bruce has taken some flak of late for what was perceived by many to be criticism of his own fanbase, in a recent interview with radio station TalkSPORT.
However, on the eve of the penultimate game of a so far supporter-less campaign, Bruce has reiterated his belief that Newcastle fans are ‘unique’ in their ‘loyal’ support for the club.
“It is the ritual. If you are a kid and you are born in Newcastle, you are going to go to the match,” he said.
“It is part of the DNA of the city, this club. It is good we are getting back to a bit of normality. That’s what we all want, isn’t it?”
Bruce, who admits he has no new injury worries for tomorrow’s encounter, hopes the return of fans can help ‘scream’ his team on to another three points – which will help them climb the Premier League table.
He said: “There have been a number of games, in my experience, where supporters have dragged us through a game.
“That's what makes Newcastle unique. That magnificent support, that real atmosphere they can create. There really is no other. That's what makes our club the unique that it is. There is no one more loyal in terms of the support that we get.
"I hope the 10,000 go to the pub, have a few beers and come and scream their team forward. Great to see.
“It is all part and parcel of it, the going to the pub before or after the game. Why hasn't he picked him? What has he picked him for? It is where it all begins - and that bit of normality is what we all crave surely.”