This is what Steve Bruce needs to understand about scrutiny at Newcastle United
Better. Much better. But only victories will get Newcastle United out of this mess.
That said, if Steve Bruce’s relegation-threatened side can play like they did in yesterday’s 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur week in, week out, then they will win games between now and the end of the season.
The return of Callum Wilson, of course, will also help.
Bruce hailed United’s performance after the game at St James’s Park – Joe Willock came off the bench to to score a late equaliser – and railed against the “nonsense” he felt has been written about him and his relationship with his players.
“I think, performance-wise, that’s as good as we’ve played for a long, long time against a really good Tottenham team who could’ve went fourth,” said Newcastle’s head coach.
“In that respect, the way we went about our jobs, there was an energy and freshness and resilience and a bit of courage and a bit of fight, which the players have dispelled, this nonsense (about) lost dressing rooms.
“We understand we’ve had a difficult few weeks, but I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Bruce was right. There was a welcome freshness about a team which had looked worryingly stale before the international break – and his players fought to the end. There’d been a pragmatic change in formation before the game in the continued absence of Wilson – Bruce switched to five at the back and fielded two up front – and it brought about a big improvement.
In another post-match interview, Bruce said: “The spirit and togetherness, in my opinion, is always going to be there. I alluded to it before the game. We have to put up with so much nonsense up here.
“We gave a poor goal away, but the response was there for everybody to see. The spirit’s never in doubt.”
However, the club’s top-flight status remains in doubt with eight games left to play.
What did Bruce – who rowed with Matt Ritchie last month – mean by “nonsense”? Was he referring to criticism? Or the scrutiny he’s under at the club? Or recent claims that he’s lost the dressing room at the club?
Scrutiny, both from supporters and the media, comes with big jobs, and this is the biggest job Bruce has had in his long managerial career. If you’re manager, or head coach, of a big club which has won just two out of 21 games in all competitions, then there will be intense scrutiny and criticism.
Much of the criticism of Bruce – who demanded more “respect” from journalists in January – and his team has been justified. This club, and this squad, should not be 17th in the Premier League, even when recent injuries and the Covid-19 outbreak late last year are factored in.
Fans and journalists have been right to to ask awkward questions this season – and we haven’t yet had all the answers from Bruce and his team.
Were the players playing for Bruce against Tottenham? Did that one performance, alone, “dispel” everything? Fans can make their own judgements.
The main thing was that the team played better, much better. And that’s given everybody hope that the club could yet stay up.