Three revealing quotes that raise questions about Steve Bruce's Newcastle United

Two small steps forward, one big step back.

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 12:30 pm

After two welcome wins came an “embarrassing” Premier League defeat last night.

And the sloppy manner of last night’s 5-2 loss to Leeds United at Elland Road, where Steve Bruce’s side had been level at 2-2 until the 77th minute, was what really angered fans.

Newcastle had been second-best for much of the night – they never got to grips with the home side’s full-backs, and lost possession themselves time and again – and the way the performance unravelled in the last 13 minutes was alarming.

The visitors gave the ball away cheaply – and were punished.

Bielsa ball

Bruce paid a warm tribute to Bielsa, one of the game’s great tacticians, before the game for his achievements at Leeds.

Steve Bruce at the final whistle.

“He's transformed Leeds,” said Bruce. “I have never seen anyone have an impact like it on the same group of players. It’s unbelievable what he has done.

“He has turned OK Championship players into really good Premier League ones. Physically, they’re the No.1 team in the Premier League, and to do that in their first season coming up from the Championship is quite remarkable.”

Bruce, of course, had really good Premier League players to start with at Newcastle – and fans have questioned how much they are improving, both individually and collectively, at United.

The contrast between an established Premier League team and a newly-promoted side was stark.

Stuart Dallas celebrates his goal as Ciaran Clark reacts.

Sunday league

Bruce – who inherited a well-organised and disciplined team from Rafa Benitez last year – likened what he saw late in the game to Sunday league defending.

Newcastle, often so resilient under pressure, were wide open when the lost possession – and Leeds took full advantage.

“Up until 75 minutes, I was comfortable,” said Bruce. “I thought we looked a threat when we equalised. Of course, Leeds are always going to ask you questions, but we’ve gifted them the two or three goals at the end.

"It’s something that you see on the park on a Sunday, and for that it’s unacceptable.”

It was unacceptable for fans, who reacted angrily to Newcastle’s late capitulation at Elland Road, the venue for some memorable wins for the team.

After the final whistle a number of Leeds fans, gathered outside the stadium, could be heard chanting and celebrating the victory.

Bruce, preparing for Saturday’s Premier League home game against Brentford, knows he must quickly give Newcastle supporters something to celebrate before Christmas.

Schoolboy stuff

Ciaran Clark got Newcastle back into the game with a second-half header.

However, that strike, his first in more than a year, was no consolation for the defender when he left the field.

Clark, unhappy with “schoolboy defending, didn’t pull any punches in his post-match assessment.

“We’re really frustrated after that,” said Clark. “We did well to get back into the game. Three sloppy mistakes in the last 12 or 13 minutes has cost us.

"It’s about being switched on – and we switched off. It’s embarrassing, really, when you look back at it. Someone needs to make a foul for the team. For it to happen a second time a minute later, there are no words for it, really."

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