Steve Bruce's Newcastle United future under the spotlight as Premier League relegation fears could worsen before a ball is kicked
Newcastle United is a club with more question than answers at the moment.
And with the Magpies staring Premier League relegation square in the face, our writer Liam Kennedy tackles the key issues at St James’ Park at present – including the future of Steve Bruce.
Following the Dwight Gayle and Ryan Fraser confusion of last week, who should start where in the Newcastle United front three?
I think Miguel Almiron is going to solve a little headache for the Magpies’ coaching staff this weekend. His availability will likely leave just one spot in the United front three needing filled – and it will be a straight shoot-out between three players.
Joelinton will occupy the right – all preconceptions aside, he had his arguably his best game in black and white last Friday night, and did his best Callum Wilson impression, until he crossed the white lines around the 18-yard box.
So if Almiron is fit he plays central, Joelinton right and left it will either be Gayle, Fraser or Jacob Murphy.
And after Fraser and Gayle’s ineffectual displays, it has to be Murphy for me.
Will Newcastle end next weekend in the bottom three?
Fulham play Leeds United on Friday night and – like United last week – have the perfect opportunity to strike first. United could have opened up a gap last weekend, Fulham can jump out of the bottom three at Newcastle’s expense before a ball is even kicked by the Magpies.
The Cottagers and Scott Parker have shown real battle, fight and a positivity that has been refreshing, in total contract to the negativity which swirls with such force around Steve Bruce and the club at the moment.
I think they will beat Leeds and United will fail to beat Brighton on Saturday. A win for Fulham a draw for Newcastle. And as a result, I think Bruce & Co will end the weekend in the dropzone, albeit on goal difference.
If United lose to Brighton will Steve Bruce remain in his job?
From the conversations I’ve had of late, I get the sense Bruce is likely to get the season to see the job through.
A string of losses and a severe worsening of the situation, even though it has been pretty dire for some time, would likely see some awkward conversations, but it looks to me like the head coach will be trusted to steer the ship from choppy seas, especially when the club already played their ace card in bringing in Graeme Jones to ‘help’ out.
Is it even too late to change, as some fans are suggesting?
It is never too late. While there is a chance, change could have a positive impact. For balance, it could also have a negative one, but it’s hard to see how a rolling of the dice from the biggest gambler of them all could result in a worse outcome than the limp, lifeless United Bruce and his cronies have been serving up for the nearly two years now.
Will Newcastle survive the drop?
On current form, no.
But there is still a fair bit of football to be played.
If you don’t win games, time will be up, Plain and simple. United need to do their own business, then others slipping up elsewhere is a bonus, not an imperative.