The day Rafa Benitez's Newcastle United set the bar for Steve Bruce

Newcastle United ended their campaign on the banks of the River Thames two years ago.

Sunday, 23rd May 2021, 12:00 pm

It was a memorable afternoon. The Putney End was filled with Newcastle United fans, hundreds of whom had arrived on flotilla of boats, and a comfortable and convincing win 4-0 win over relegated Fulham at a sunny Craven Cottage seemingly promised a bright future

Yet two of the club’s scorers – Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez – would soon be gone, and, more significantly, the manager – Rafa Benitez – also left that summer.

Supporters had implored Benitez to stay at the club during the game.

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They chanted “Rafa Benitez, we want you to stay”, but his mind was all but made up before the team had even arrived at the stadium following 18 months of wrangling over transfer funds with owner Mike Ashley.

The team ended that season in 13th place with 45 points. United, under Steve Bruce, can emulate that feat with a win over Fulham, relegated again, this afternoon.

There won’t be any away fans inside Craven Cottage this time. And if there were, they wouldn’t be imploring Bruce, booed in midweek, to stay. The team hasn’t progressed, overall, since Bruce took charge, despite a net spend of around £100million.

That said, the team has, unquestionably, progressed over the past couple of months – and assistant manager Graeme Jones deserves credit for the part he has played in the club’s turnaround since arriving in late January.

Rafa Benitez applauds Newcastle United fans at Craven Cottage two years ago.

Can Bruce’s side sign off with a similarly positive performance – and give fans some hope of further progression next season?

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Steve Bruce after the midweek win over Sheffield United.

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