Steve Bruce reveals why he won't listen to Michael Chopra as he hits out at critics
Steve Bruce has come out fighting after a week of negative headlines on Tyneside – and hit back at Michael Chopra.
Bruce was angered by the “sensationalist” reaction to Newcastle United’s abject 3-1 loss to Norwich City last weekend – and his decision to call his players in for training the following day.
The club’s head coach has also hit out at Chopra, who claimed that Bruce’s players “didn’t know their jobs” – and the reporting of a quote from defender Paul Dummett, who had claimed that it “wasn’t right” from the warm-up at Carrow Road.
Bruce says some of the criticism has "hurt" him.
“I think what insults me more than anything is the insinuation that we can’t do a warm-up and tactics,” said United’s head coach. “All we've worked on is team shape since I’ve been here. All we’ve done, all week and every week, is formation, team shape.
“The insinuation that we’re not capable of doing that…that criticism hurts, because it’s untrue.”
Dummett went on to "clarify" the comment on Twitter, where he made it clear that the quote was not a criticism of Bruce or his staff.
"My concern was we didn’t perform well enough, full stop, end of story," said Bruce. "If the warm-up isn’t right, then come on – are we really going to analyse a warm-up? If we are, then we're in serious trouble.
"Is it a concern about a warm-up? I was more concerned about the game.
"He (Dummett) is entitled to his opinion, of course. Mine is that I analyse the performance on the pitch, rather than any warm-up. The lads – (coaches) Steve Agnew and Steve Clemence – have been taking warm-ups for 20 years. If we can’t take a warm-up…this just shows what we’re up against."
Chopra – who made 21 league appearances for Newcastle after coming up through the ranks at the club – was critical of Bruce and his tactics in a radio interview.
“I’ve spoken to some senior players at the club – I won’t mention their names – and under (Rafa) Benitez everything was drilled into them on the training pitch,” said the former United striker.
“Bruce has come in, and some of the players don’t know their jobs – they’re not really working on their shape.”
Chopra's extraordinary claims were dismissed by Bruce, who felt they should have been ignored.
“I’m not taking notice of someone who’s played 20 games and scored one goal here,” said Bruce. “That disappoints me. Someone with a bit of credence, I can understand. We can all take criticism as long as it's constructive. When it’s complete lies, that’s when its disappointing.”
Former Newcastle captain Alan Shearer, Bruce’s close friend, was also critical of the performance on Match of the Day.
"I didn’t hear Alan’s comments, but whatever he said, I’ve no problems with that,” said Bruce. “As for Michael Chopra…I don’t know if he has an axe to grind, I don’t know much about him.
“I’m sorry, it’s totally wrong, and basically lies. It escalates and it’s ridiculous. People want to create nonsense, which it was.”
Asked by the Gazette if he expected the media to ignore Chopra’s comments, Bruce said: ‘I would expect him to be ignored, yes. Who is he? Absolute lies and we all know why he’s on the radio. Newcastle legend who played 20 times for the club. If it’s Alan Shearer? Bring it on."
Bruce called his players in for a training session last Sunday.
The 58-year-old said: "They have accepted the level of performance was nowhere near good enough.
"They’ve trained great all week. Things are difficult, of course they are. Maybe I was too honest after the game, maybe I could have flanneled it. But we didn’t play well enough, end of story. Now it’s up to me to work on what we’re doing and try to produce a performance."
Bruce doesn't regret taking the job at his boyhood club against the advice of Shearer, who told him he was walking into a "toxic" situation.
“Am I regretting this job? Absolutely no chance," said Bruce.
"I love the fight of it. When it gets unfair, that’s where I get disappointed. I could have given it a load of bulls*** last Saturday, all the flannel. I say it the way it is, because I was totally disappointed with the performance.
"I never give up the fight for it, that’s in me. No-one else in the country would be under the spotlight that I feel as if I’m under at the minute. It is what it is, I knew it, I have to accept it. I could have said no.
"I’m prepared to roll up my sleeves, and I hope the team respond the right way.
"I’ve had to work and fight to be a player, coach and manager. It’s never come easy. I have to work every day, I’m not afraid of that.
"I’ve been in the game a long time and have been beaten badly lots. I hope my record stands up with teams I’ve managed in the Premier League, smaller clubs than this. I’ve always managed to do OK. I hope I can do the same here."