The real blame does NOT lie with Steve Bruce for this mess

Mike Ashley wanted to take back control. Out went Rafa Benitez, and in came Steve Bruce.

Monday, 30th September 2019, 11:45 am
Steve Bruce.

Ashley, now, has more control over transfers. But the team has seemingly lost control on the pitch.

Think back to May 12 this year. That day, Newcastle United convincingly beat Fulham 4-0 at a sunny Craven Cottage. It was a glimpse into a potentially bright future. The team was disciplined and dangerous. The front three of Salomon Rondon, Ayoze Perez and Miguel Almiron were unplayable at times. It was a joy to watch.

Yesterday, however, was painful to watch. The club’s 5-0 defeat to Leicester City at a sodden King Power Stadium was as bad, if not worse, than any performance in recent memory. It was embarrassing.

It was the kind of performance that a team destined for relegation puts in.

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Bruce is getting most of the blame, which is understandable given the on-pitch disorganisation. The 58-year-old was never a popular appointment, and nothing he has done since taking charge has convinced fans that he can take the club forward.

The club is going backwards.

But the real blame likes elsewhere. Ashley got involved in a needless stand-off with Benitez in January last year when the Spaniard was minded to commit his longer-term future to the club, and there was an inevitability about his departure this summer.

Benitez was offered less control over transfers at St James’s Park – and, not surprisingly, he walked and took up a lucrative offer in China.

Ashley got his way and wrestled back more control over transfers, but at what cost? Another relegation would be catastrophic – and costly. The club, put up for sale almost two years ago, will not be worth £300million at the end of the season if it’s in the bottom three.

I don’t blame Bruce for taking the job. And I also don’t want him to fail. But I don’t see things improving any time soon. United were disorganised against Leicester, where Isaac Hayden’s indiscipline was decisive.

The team has lost its identity. Thousands of fans have stayed away, and they aren’t likely to come back any time soon.

Ashley took back control this summer, but at what cost?