This will massively change the dynamic for Steve Bruce at Newcastle United
It’s that time again. The sun is out, and the staff at St James’s Park are diligently working on the pitch ahead of the new campaign.
More importantly, the Premier League table has been reset, and the fixture list is out. Newcastle United’s campaign has been mapped out by the fixture computer.
The 2021/22 campaign starts with a home game against West Ham United, last season’s opening weekend opponents, and ends with a trip to face Burnley at Turf Moor.
Also of note is a Boxing Day home game against Manchester United – a rarity – and 640-mile New Year’s Day round trip to Southampton.
Yet there’s so much we don’t know. We don’t know just how many fans will be inside St James’s Park when the season kicks off – and we don’t know what kind of team Steve Bruce will field given that the club is yet to make a signing.
There were boos aimed at Bruce when he joined his players on the pitch for a “lap of appreciation” after a 1-0 win over Sheffield United last month.
Around 20,000 fans were inside the stadium that afternoon, and, it’s hoped, there will be many, many more supporters allowed in this term. Bruce, spared boos up to then by enforced behind-closed-doors football, knows that will change the dynamic for him, in particular.
United’s head coach needs a good start, and August also sees an away game against Aston Villa and a home fixture against Southampton. The start could’ve been worse, much worse.
The club has been given a home fixture on Boxing Day, but December is a tough month. The club also faces Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester City that month.
But this will be a tough season, full stop.
Bruce will be under pressure from day one, despite a 12th-placed finish last season following an impressive late-season run of results.
Newcastle need to kick on, but to do that the team needs strengthening, and Bruce has already signalled that there won’t be a huge amount of money spent this summer due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
United ended the season strongly with a clear way of playing thanks to coach Graeme Jones – and this season’s plan will be all-important.