Time is running out for Steve Bruce at Newcastle United
“There’s still a long way to go.”
Those were Steve Bruce’s words after last night’s 2-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
The defeat leaves Newcastle United 17th in the Premier League – and seven points above the relegation zone – ahead of Sunday’s fixture against second-placed Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Make no mistake, the club is in trouble ahead of Sunday’s game against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
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This squad shouldn’t be anywhere near the bottom three, even when you factor in the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak at the training ground late last year.
Supporters watching Bruce’s post-match press conference may not have been too reassured by his words.
Yes, a lot can happen between now and the end of the Premier League’s first – and hopefully only – fully behind-closed-doors season, but many feel not too much will change over the coming weeks and months.
Bruce, of course, has spoken a lot about the accumulation of points over the course of the season.
Newcastle, up to now, haven’t been good enough to accumulate enough of them. The team has 25 points, and will have to do without Callum Wilson, Fabian Schar and Javier Manquillo until April.
Asked if he and his players had to hold their nerve, the club’s head coach said: “There’s seven or eight teams, three or four points the other way takes you into an even more safe position.
“As I’ve said many, many times, it’s the accumulation of points over a season. Going to Man U is going to be very difficult. So, you’re right, we have to keep your nerve, keep playing away.”
There are 14 games left – that’s how long a way there is to go – and there have been more calls for a managerial change. Bruce, however, retains the support of those who appointed him. Significantly, Graeme Jones was appointed as his assistant late last month.
Results have improved since Jones's arrival – the club ended an 11-game run without a win following his appointment – but the teams around Newcastle have also been picking up points. A sustained improvement is needed.
Bruce asked to be judged by on results last summer – and that’s what supporters have been doing. Results, up to now, haven’t been nearly good enough.
The 60-year-old pledged to take the club forward after succeeding Rafa Benitez at St James's Park in the summer of 2019. Unfortunately, the club has moved backward this season following last term’s 13th-placed finish – despite the arrivals last summer of Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser.
Bruce will not walk away from the job – he said he would “never, ever walk away from a challenge” last month – and owner Mike Ashley will have a decision to make if the club doesn’t pull away from the relegation over the coming weeks.
In the midst of all this, managing director Lee Charnley has been silent.
Bruce – who last month demanded more “respect” from journalists reporting on the club – has been the only senior figure to speak to fans.
Ashley will be aware that Steve McClaren was dismissed with just 10 games left in March 2015 – and that wasn’t nearly enough time for Benitez to turn things around.