Newcastle United are a dizzying mix of frustration, heartache and the odd moment of shear, unbridled joy.  But we are also the club of missed opportunities – what would’ve happened if Keegan’s Entertainers had secured a deserved Premiership title?  What would’ve happened if Bobby Robson’s Entertainers 2.0 had brought home a trophy?  These questions are a million miles away from where we are as a club today, but I want to focus on why 2020-21 is another missed opportunity for Newcastle United.

https://twitter.com/tfNUFC/status/1352945975783026690

In my supporter lifetime I recall two seasons where the club have royally missed opportunities to push on:

2003-04 – when the only signing designed to strengthen Bobby Robson’s excellent squad was an average Lee Bowyer (and we all know the only thing he did of note at United is have a punch up with Kieron Dyer on the pitch)

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2012-13 – when only a decent Vurnon Anita was signed to supplement Alan Pardew’s exciting yet mercurial squad that lacked strength in depth in the middle of the pitch to really challenge. (Take out Cabaye and Tiote and it really was pretty hopeless)

These are examples of woeful misinterpretations of the footballing landscape at the time from those in charge and are particularly galling because they came from positions of relative of strength.

2020-21 is a season in the same vein as the two above, only this time the change United needed to make was to the man incumbent in the managers hotseat.

A look at the current league table shows 8 points between the top 9, with no club having won more than four games in a row until Man City managed five this week against Palace.

https://twitter.com/tfNUFC/status/1352585216704065538

Is the Newcastle United squad worse than some of those above us?  West Ham, Southampton, Villa, Leeds, Everton, Wolves?  In individual positions there are subjective arguments for this being true, but for years our club had something others lacked – a spirit, a fight and coaching to rival the best in the world.  We had spirit and fight under Hughton and added world class coaching under Rafa (even spells under Pardew displayed runs full of graft and desire), but Steve Bruce has categorically eroded any sense of that away from this group of lads and there is only one way this club is going under his stewardship.

If there was just one football person on the club’s board, they could’ve seen this season coming a mile off after the circumstances of 2020 – a lack of a preseason, a condensed calendar, major injuries to clubs’ players and a lack of consistent form have concertinaed the table and the season has a strong scent of 2015-16 when Leicester City won the league.

https://true-faith.co.uk/big-differences-how-benitez-and-bruce-compare/

This should’ve (or could’ve) been a season where Newcastle upset the applecart (there is no suggestion that we should be challenging for the league), but we have arguably the strongest squad we’ve had since promotion with a strong, dynamic centre forward, pacey and unpredictable wingers, two excellent goalkeepers and (until Bruce) a strong defensive unit that under the previous manager was the eighth best in the division.

We all know those in charge at Newcastle are perennial reactors, charlatans and knaves but with the tinniest bit of foresight and planning, the current squad of first teamers and the correct blooding of exciting young players like the Longstaff’s and Eliot Anderson, United should be where Villa and Southampton are, in around the top eight looking to progress as a club.  We would’ve beat a second-string Brentford too.  And who knows from there?

Steve Bruce may as well be a concrete block attached to Newcastle’s limp feet dragging us down to a dark, ultra-competitive Premier League graveyard, called The Championship.  He is a has been, who is a never was as a manager – the perfect anecdote for why great players don’t always make great managers.  He is tactically clueless (by his own admission) and he even seems to have lost what the FOSB claim is his ‘good’ trait as a manager – his man management skills.  Bruce proved all this in his first twelve months in charge.  We didn’t need another six months to watch it unravel as much as it has.

https://twitter.com/tfNUFC/status/1352532643456364546

Imagine for a second Rafa Benitez in charge of this group of players.  But I’m not even going to aim that high – imagine Daniel Farke or Thomas Frank or Marco Silva or Lucien Favre in charge of this group of players.  These are all managers of different statures that have created identities at their previous clubs (how the team sets up tactically, using modern training methodology, and how they plan and aim to win matches on the pitch, and have proven ability to make the necessary changes when things aren’t working out) and a well-run, even mildly ambitious Newcastle United would have no problem attracting them.

The club is crying out for change at the very top with an absent owner and a League Two level Chief Exec who couldn’t negotiate his way out of a wet paper bag and (even more damningly) that’s it at the top of our club.  But in leu of those infinitely more difficult changes Newcastle United missed an opportunity to push on this summer, and the reason is an infinitely more fixable one – the appointment of a capable, modern football manager.

#Bruce Out

Jonathan Young  – @jonyeria