The unanswered questions at Newcastle United after a behind-closed-doors pre-season

Steve Bruce.Steve Bruce.
Steve Bruce.
Only a handful of people saw Newcastle United’s 5-1 defeat to Middlesbrough earlier this week – and that might be a good thing given the result.

Too much can be read into pre-season results.

But, at least, fans – and journalists – have had a sense of how the team is doing in its preparations for the new Premier League season, which kicks off next weekend.

Not this year. United’s three friendlies so far – labelled “training matches” by the club – have been played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. The games haven’t been live streamed by the club, and the media haven’t been allowed inside to watch.

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Tomorrow’s game against Stoke City at St James’s Park, the club’s final warm-up match, is no different.

Fans are in the dark – and so too are journalists – ahead of the club’s September 12 season-opener against West Ham United, which will be played behind closed doors and isn’t being screened live.

Steve Bruce hasn’t spoken since the Newcastle’s first pre-season game – a 3-0 win over Crewe Alexandra – and it was left to Middlesbrough manager Neil Warnock to reveal why a proposed second friendly between the two clubs had been cancelled.

“We were going to do the Under-23s, and give the players who haven’t had many minutes a run-out against their first team,” said Warnock.

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St James's Park.St James's Park.
St James's Park.

"But Steve has got about seven injuries, I think, so it’s just not worth the risk of getting any more injuries.”

When Bruce last spoke to journalists, there only one player – Fabian Schar – was on the club’s injured list.

Sources at the club insist that there’s no injury crisis. Only two players – Martin Dubravka and Dwight Gayle – are out with long-term injuries, and knocks and minor problems are a part of any pre-season campaign.

Supporters, meanwhile, are also keen to know more about the club’s efforts in the transfer market.

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Bruce, United's head coach, will be speaking to the media a lot once the season kicks off – the club has three Premier League fixtures and one EFL Cup tie this month – but, for now, there are more questions than answers at St James’s Park.