Why a break isn't on the agenda at Newcastle United as Steve Bruce assesses problems
This time, there’s no time for a short break. There’s just too much to do.
There was a backlash last month when Steve Bruce travelled to Portugal during a two-week international break.
The trip had followed a 2-2 home draw against Southampton – and the transfer deadline.
Neither the result, nor the club’s summer business, was satisfactory, and supporters, understandably, felt there was work to be done on Tyneside during the international break.
Bruce reacted angrily to a question about the trip after the club’s 4-1 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
United’s head coach said: “Do you think I really have to answer that to you? That's what the fans are asking, are they? We have trained all week. The preparation was meticulous, let me tell you.
"There’s nothing more in preparation (that could have been done). What was I supposed to do? We had six of them away. The preparation was fine, and we’ve been in all week.”
That loss had left the club in 19th position, and the club, still winless, is in the same position following Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers at Molineux.
Newcastle have claimed just three points from seven games. Yes, they’ve come close to winning a couple of games, but that first victory seems a long way off with some tough fixtures – Tottenham Hotspur are next up at St James’s Park – on the horizon.
Yet Bruce is secure in his position at the club – and the 60-year-old will not walk away, despite repeated “we want Brucie out” chants from supporters.
Something, however, must change. United must somehow to find a way to win, like they did last season following a shocking defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion in March.
There was a tactical change during the game at Molineux – Bruce reverted to a back five before the break – but his team was far from convincing at either end of the pitch.
Should Allan Saint-Maximin – who had a chance to put Newcastle ahead early in the second half – be played through the middle? Why is midfielder Isaac Hayden playing in defence ahead of Fabian Schar? These are the kind of question Bruce needs to answer during the break.
Bruce was asked his plans for the break at Molineux, where Jeff Hendrick found the net.
“The first thing I always do is analyse myself,” said Bruce. “Could I have done anything differently? Could I do anything different? I always analyse that.
"We’ll have a look at the game again. I didn’t think there was anything in it. It could have went either way. I didn’t think we deserved to get beat again. We’ll go to work again, and hopefully the internationals come back well.
"Can we get some of our injured players back. It’ll be an interesting couple of weeks to see if we can.”
Bruce certainly needs Callum Wilson, injured since late August, back, as his return, at least, would be one positive.
The Wolves game was Bruce’s 999th as a manager, and his managerial longevity, certainly, is remarkable.
Bruce, aided by his coaching team, now has time to work with those players not on international duty, but, it seems, few fans believe that he’s the right man to do that work.