This is what Steve Bruce really needs at Newcastle United
Liverpool’s players are making the most of the Premier League’s winter break on beaches around the world.
It’s a welcome break, and they’ve earned it. The FIFA Club World Cup-winning team are 22 points clear clear at the top of the Premier League, and still in the Champions League, which they won last season.
Klopp has left the club’s FA Cup replay against Shrewsbury to the club’s Under-23s – and why not? The Premier League is the club’s priority.
What is Steve Bruce’s priority? As ever, it’s about survival at Newcastle United. But the club’s head coach also stressed the importance of the cups after taking charge during the Premier League Asia Trophy last summer.
Speaking at the team hotel on the banks of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, Bruce said in July: “It’s not just about staying in the division and being happy with that – that would be wrong.”
Bruce has named strong teams in the competition so far, yet his side couldn’t beat either Rochdale or Oxford United at the first attempt.
Tonight they take on Oxford at the Kassam Stadium, the scene of an FA Cup defeat three years ago for an under-strengthen team, in a fourth-round replay. Newcastle, again, will be strong on paper, but how strong will they be on the pitch?
The FA Cup might be low down in Liverpool’s priorities, but it’s high up Bruce’s priority list on Tyneside. He knows a cup run will buy him time as he attempts to win over critical fans.
Bruce bristled at the suggestion his team, 12th in the league table and seven points above the relegation zone, has been “lucky” this season at his pre-match press conference.
“I think that's an insult to the players,” said Bruce. “They might not be technically the best, but they go out and give us as much as they can give.”
Bruce, a United fan, will know that luck has often played its part in the club’s cup runs.
With a cup record this bad, Newcastle, last in the fifth round in 2006, need all the luck they can get.