Old Steve was bad Steve. New Steve is good Steve. Unfailing polite. “Thank you. Yes, that’s a great question.” Touchingly humble. “Well, I’ll certainly take that on board”. New Steve would never want to talk our club down. It’s a privilege to manage such a huge club. A unique club. Our club. New Steve is our Steve. Stepford Steve.

Admittedly the re-programming unveiled on Radio Newcastle last night wasn’t yet 100% stable or reliable. Old Steve was still fighting for control, the prickly, defensive Steve of press conferences past. Testing questions – and, make no mistake, the questions from fans were, for the most part, thoughtful, well-informed, and rather more challenging than those of national news outlets – were greeted with audible sighs before new Steve kicked in.

And just once or twice, old Steve regained power. Old Steve, bad Steve. Tellingly, those insecure sparks of anger were reserved for times when his authority was challenged – by the suggestions that Graeme Jones had been brought in without his agreement and that Joelinton had to be picked because of his transfer fee. Old Steve welcomed the opportunity to “put to bed these stories”, this “bull”. Would anyone really think that after 20 years, he would ever let such a thing happen? Old Steve was indignant Steve. And in this, he was all too willingly supported by the host Simon Pryde and his side-kickItsy-Bitsy G********i, who happily indulged a lazy opposition between the fans’ regular conspiracy theories and the cosy truth they were now enabling.

But these were momentary lapses. Because new Steve is one of us. A fan. Just an ordinary guy doing his best. All the fans he’d ever met had only ever wished him luck. And all the fans at St James’ on Sunday had been fantastic. Because Stepford Steve loves us and our great questions.

And great questions there were. About his perception of fans’ expectations, about playing players out of position, about five at the back rather than 4231, about the managed collapse of the seventh best defence in the league. About talking the team down and the opposition up, about the lack of depth up front, and about what exactly his coaches do. Albert from Wooler even threatened to skewer Bruce with a trio of expert incisions.

What on earth had happened to the Sean Longstaff who beat Man City three seasons ago? Would Joelinton ever succeed? And could Bruce not see that Ritchie and Murphy were being targeted for their defensive frailties?

Needless to say, none of the questions received an adequate reply. When Bruce wasn’t being dug out of a hole by Pryde, there was waffle about “balance” and flim-flam about the “unique” nature of our club but little or no serious engagement with detail. And most of all there were repeated appeals to how difficult the Premier League is. Very difficult. Very, very difficult. Difficult to compete with the top six or eight clubs. Difficult to come up against the “most outstanding teams in Europe week in, week out”. Difficult to defend against “top, top players”. Might help if we played defenders not wingers, Steve?

And this was where old Steve, real Steve, was never far away. Because nothing is ever Steve’s fault. He’s not in control of anything. Things happen to Steve, not the other way round. All he can do is trust to luck that his big players stay fit, as if football management was some ancient Greek epic entirely dependent on the capricious will of the Gods.

There was outright fantasy and denial too. No, he’d never played anyone out of position. Except Krafth, but that didn’t count because a full back is essentially a centre back, even if he’s never played there before. Matty Longstaff hadn’t played purely because of injury and illness. For an hour on Sunday, we’d been entirely on top against a top-six team. In the last six months, we’ve got the balance right.

Amidst all the waffle, there were two unintentionally revealing exchanges. The first came when Bruce was asked to explain why a manager in his third season was still defending his record by claiming that change can’t happen overnight. Not for our “head manager” – as he amusingly described himself at one point – any suggestion that improvement might come from coaching and tactics, from improving the players already at his disposal. No, for Bruce improvement was only a matter of new players, and two years meant only four transfer windows, the most recent of which had “been damaged by Covid”. Yes, this had made things “difficult, very difficult”. As ever, a spineless abdication of responsibility, not to mention a mendacious re-writing of history for a manager who has spent £100 million unavailable to his predecessor.

The second came when he talked about his own appointment, the result apparently of a phone call from Lee Charnley out of the blue, “in the twilight of my career”, that had led to his confirmation in post “only two or three days” later. He clearly couldn’t believe his luck, both to have been approached and to have been spared any kind of rigorous appointment process.

In truth, this was all two years too late. August 2019 was the moment for a charm offensive. Without any evidence to the contrary, we might have bought the carefully presented everyman schtick. But the problem for new Steve is that we know old Steve, and he can’t evade the reality of the last two years no matter how hard he might try.

Matthew Philpotts @mjp19731

You can listen to the full interview on BBC Radio Newcastle here