Luke Edwards, a journalist unafraid to front up and have people challenge his opinions on Newcastle United, published an article in the Telegraph a couple of days ago that is, in my opinion, wholly inaccurate and utterly arbitrary.

Luke is of the opinion that the calls for Steve Bruce to be sacked ‘have begun’ Despite having only ‘a month in the job, four weeks to work with the players, to bed in five new signings, to get his idea across’ the calls for his sacking ‘are coming for him’.

I’m not entirely sure of the point that Luke is trying to make here. Is the social media (Twitter, always Twitter) platform now what represents the collective voice of the masses? Do the few hundred Tweets critical of Bruce, demanding he’s fired, now represent the 40 odd thousand at St James’ Park, the over 1 million people who follow the official NUFC Twitter account, the 100s of thousands of people who support the Club in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and around the world?

I’m not sure they do. I was in the away end at Carrow Road and I did not hear one call of ‘Bruce Out’. I heard plenty of people chanting for Ashley to get out of our club and many voices questioning Bruce’s decision-making (me included) as his team put in a weak, disjointed and woeful performance against newly promoted Norwich City.

Every single voice that questioned just what was going on as the Newcastle players stumbled around the pitch like a drunk on a nightclub dance floor was justified in its assessment of what it was witnessing, regardless of the language used to articulate it. Fans are not stupid just because they might not have played or managed at the highest level, many can see when something is wrong and needs changing ASAP. And by change I’m referring to tactics and in game management, not just binning the manager so that Charnley et al can appoint their next ineffective fall-guy.

Luke writes that fans have already decided on Bruce and are telling him ‘you’re not up to it. You’re not good enough. You shouldn’t have been given the job. The players don’t know what they’re doing. You are not fit to sit in the same chair as Rafa Benitez. Newcastle will be relegated unless you go now. You must go. For the love of God, go’.

As far as I’m concerned the first three sentences of this statement are perfectly rational. Steve Bruce was sacked by Aston Villa despite the enormous riches the club spent in the Championship on players that he wanted. The club was lying in 12th position with 1 win in 9 games and former Villa striker Garry Thompson commented at the time, ‘”[T]here is a quality collection of players who just need a bit of coaching and a bit of guiding, and then they will score goals.’

Prior to Aston Villa he’d taken Hull up through the play-offs, an admirable achievement no doubt. However, prior to that he’d been in charge of the Tigers for 2 seasons in the Premier League, winning 18 times in 76 games (a 23.68% win rate), collecting 72 points (0.95 points per game) and finishing 15th (37 points) and 18th (35 points), conceding 104 goals and scoring 69. Statistics like this don’t inspire confidence. Nor does the fact he was sacked by Sunderland prior to taking the Hull job.

Quite simply Steve Bruce’s career prior to the Newcastle job does not even register on the same scale as that of Rafa Benitez so, therefore, I think going from one of the world’s greatest coaches to someone who’s record over the last 8 years doesn’t inspire any confidence is enough to make people question whether or not Bruce should’ve been given the job. It’s a perfectly rational feeling and it is evidence-based.

The comment ‘the players don’t know what they’re doing’ is accurate based on the evidence of the second-half versus Arsenal and the entire game versus Norwich. I witnessed a team lacking cohesion, positional discipline and organisation. I’d even suggest that the supposed ‘good first-half’ against Arsenal wasn’t actually good, Arsenal were just as bad as us for the first 45 minutes which made us look less poor than we were. Arsenal were more organised and together in the second-half and when they scored we had no answer to it.

Luke believes that all the negativity is played out to ‘Rafa Benitez did this, Rafa would have done that, nothing like this happened under Rafa, Rafa had a plan, Rafa won the Champions’ League’. Of course, people are going to compare to Rafa and everything in that statement is true. People believed in Rafa Benitez because he has proved himself as one of the best, made Newcastle an incredibly competitive team on a meagre budget, made us one of the best organised and hardest to score against teams in the Premier League and always learnt from his mistakes and sought to rectify them.

Steve Bruce’s record prior to arriving at Newcastle means the onus is on him to prove himself that he is capable of the job. People already knew Rafa was capable. People will ‘move on’ from Rafa when they’re convinced he’s been replaced adequately and when they can believe in his replacement because said replacement has proved himself as deserving of that trust. If Bruce believes in himself then nothing the fans might say right now should stop him showing many of us how wrong we all are.

Why should Newcastle fans not mourn the loss of a great manager in whom they had complete trust and confidence and why should Steve Bruce’s ability to replace him not be questioned? Steve Bruce has the chance to prove every single doubter wrong and for anyone to insinuate that the negativity of the fans might impact on him progressing the team and improving the players is testament to a real lack of belief in Bruce’s ability. A manager who is good enough is not going to be hampered by a few thousand people kicking-off on social media.

There is more I could write about to counter what Luke has said in this article but I feel I’ll be repeating myself. One question I would be interested to hear Lee Charnley and perhaps Luke answer is what Premier League clubs do they think would’ve attempted to wrestle Steve Bruce from Championship Sheff Wed and appoint him as manager if they’d had a managerial vacancy, and what is it about his recent record that might have inspired the decision to hire him?

I’ll sign-off by commenting on the use of the term ‘angry, militant supporters’. To suggest that people upset because a world-class manager they loved has left the club, and who are expressing disbelief and anger at his replacement who, in terms of his managerial career when compared to the previous incumbent means he might not be ‘fit to sit in the same chair’, are ‘militant’, is up there with the kind of language I’d expect from Charnley and Ashley. It’s misguided and utterly incorrect. It’s not up to fans to immediately offer compliant faith to Steve Bruce, it’s up to Steve Bruce to earn it.

– Norman Riley