Steve Bruce is losing it at Newcastle United

A dejected Steve Bruce, sat deep in his chair, was asked if he’d lost the dressing room after Newcastle United’s Carabao Cup defeat to Brentford.

Wednesday, 23rd December 2020, 4:45 pm

It was a fair question. Too many of the club’s players are under-performing – and too much is going wrong on the pitch.

Fans, understandably, reacted angrily on social media after watching a weakened Championship side knock out a strong Newcastle team at the Brentford Community Stadium.

Bruce insisted on his post-match Zoom call that he hadn’t lost the players, though he conceded they weren’t “playing well enough” for him, which was telling in itself.

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“I do think the players are playing for us,” said United's head coach. “Maybe they’re just not playing well enough. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have lost tonight. It’s certainly not down to lack of effort or determination.”

However, fans, many of whom had welcomed his decision to name a strong starting XI, felt that there was a lack of effort and determination.

Newcastle were too slow and too sloppy. What was the plan? Bruce’s team lacked ideas on the ball. They were predictable in midfield, and they plodded through the game.

Jonjo Shelvey, United’s stand-in skipper, and a player capable of unlocking a stubborn defence, again went missing alongside Sean Longstaff. The captain’s armband hasn’t brought the best out of Shelvey, a high-earner who was handed a new deal earlier this year.

Steve Bruce on the touchline at Brentford.

It was too easy for Brentford. There was pace in the team, yet where was it on the pitch? Out of possession, they didn’t do nearly enough to press the opposition and win the ball back. They also struggled to defend corners.

“We were too slow in our possession,” said Bruce, who was also asked about calls for him to be sacked.

“We didn’t do enough. We didn’t run forward enough or cause them enough problems, especially with the attacking players we had on the pitch, the line-up we had.

“We have to accept what’s coming our way. That’s what managing Newcastle’s all about. Unfortunately we’ve given up a wonderful opportunity.”

Josh Dasilva celebrates his winner.

Social media may not always be the most accurate barometer of fan sentiment, but nevertheless it’s still a reflection of views held across the fanbase.

Had there been away supporters inside the Brentford Community Stadium, it’s likely that their verdict will have been just as brutal as that delivered online after the game, which was decided by a second-half goal from Josh Dasilva.

What support or goodwill Bruce had left has seemingly ebbed away over the past week.

The Brentford defeat had the feel of the club’s fourth-round League Cup loss away to Wigan Athletic in November 2005. Then-manager Graeme Souness limped on for two more months, but it was becoming clear at the time that a managerial change was needed.

And the latest performance wasn’t a one-off. It was more of the same – and things are unravelling, slowly. Bruce got the experienced players he wanted in the summer, but he hasn’t given supporters the football they want.

Bruce may not have lost his players, but he’s lost the fans – and it’s hard to see a way back from that.

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