by Rob Clothier | 25th June 2020

It’s been another interesting week in the world of Newcastle United Football Club since my column last Thursday.

We have accrued four Premier League points from our two opening games of Project Restart, a decent return.  The three points earned against Sheffield United were well deserved, though assisted by a red card for the Blades.  Match report from Norman Riley here.

The performance against Villa wasn’t as good, and a draw was a fair result in the end.  Read our match report from Adam Widdrington here.  I’d have taken four points from these two fixtures if offered beforehand.  It would surely now take a screw up of epic proportions and some freak results to see us relegated.

We have once again heard the likes of Jamie Redknapp, Phil Neville and Danny Murphy telling us how good a manager Steve Bruce is and that he absolutely deserves the opportunity to continue to manage Newcastle Utd if/when the Saudi backed takeover is complete.

My view on it is this – as a team, we have had some good results this season and being in the league position we currently occupy is a canny effort from all involved.  Does that mean Steve Bruce is the right man to continue to lead our club into a new era under new ambitious owners?  Absolutely not.

Steve Bruce has absolutely nothing on his long CV to convince me that he has what it takes to grow Newcastle United into a successful club which will continually challenge for major honours in England and Europe.

Here are the highlights of Steve Bruce’s league football career.  He has won four promotions from the EFL Championship to the Premier League (in 2001/02 @ Birmingham City, 2006/07 @ Birmingham City, 2012/13 @ Hull City & 2015/16 @ Hull City).  This is a record only matched by a certain Neil Warnock.  Wonderful.

How about his Premier League record?  Well it’s fair to say that isn’t great reading.  Bruce has managed teams in 423 top flight matches.  This is only surpassed by Arsene Wenger (828), Sir Alex Ferguson (810), Harry Redknapp (639), David Moyes (526), Sam Allardyce (512) and Mark Hughes (466).  However, he has only finished in the top ten of the Premier League twice, in 2003/04 with Birmingham and 2010/11 with current EFL League One (Third Division) side Sunderland AFC.

How about win percentage?  Well Bruce currently holds a 28.4% win percentage in his Premier League career.  Just over one win in every four games played.  Out of the 33 managers to have taken charge of 200 or more games in the Premier League, only Bryan Robson has a lower win percentage (26.8%).  Fantastic.

Bruce has fallen into the Newcastle United hotseat and taken charge of arguably the most talented squad he has ever had at his disposal in the top flight.  And the majority of this squad have been managed for the past few seasons by the world class Rafa Benitez.

In my view, our relative successful season so far is the result of riding the crest of the wave left behind by Rafa and his coaching staff.  Add in the brilliant Allan Saint-Maximin, and Miggy Almiron finally finding a few goals, that’s what’s keeping us going, for now.

New owners coming into the club will leave no stone unturned in their quest to turn Newcastle United back into a club that aims to win trophies every season.  I just cannot see them accepting a manager that can only offer a record of winning 28.4% of his previous Premier League games.  For me, its not just his record that reflects badly on him.  The comments he makes to the media are pathetic at times.  If the takeover goes through before the end of the season, and I expect it will, then I believe we will see our manager to be told he will hold the reins until the end of the 2019/20 season, but will be relieved of his duties when it comes to a close.  There are managers out there way, way more qualified to take our great club forward and build it into the giant of English football that it should be.  The names of Rafa Benitez and Mauricio Pochettino continue to be mooted.

I put a tweet out via the True Faith account a few days ago which drew some negative attention from Mark Douglas and Luke Edwards (see below).

Mark and Luke are excellent journalists.  I’ve met them both and they’re great lads, but I stand by what I said and I certainly don’t think it was ’embarrassing’.  As a fanzine we publish opinions and views from a wide range of fans, so there will always be very contrasting outlooks on the club and its players and staff.

How on earth can people say that Bruce is a better person to take NUFC forward than Rafa or Poch?  The comments made by TV pundits, such as Redknapp, P.Neville etc, supporting Bruce are just completely unfounded.  What infuriates me is that the anchor or host of the TV coverage (like Dave Jones on Sky or Gabby Logan on BBC) don’t challenge the pundits on what makes Bruce the right man, they just go along with it and agree.

Ask them WHY does Bruce deserve the chance?  What in his history shows that he is going to succeed at the club?  Yes, he’s had a decent season so far, but at present we are destined for another bottom half of the table finish.  Remember, he has only previously led two teams to top half finishes in the Premier League.

Out of interest, and for comparison, Rafa Benitez boasts a 49.4 win percentage in the PL (168 wins from 340 games played).  And Pochettino holds a 51.6 win record, 132 wins from 256 games.

Factor in also that Benitez and Pochettino can boast success in European competition, they are head and shoulders above Steve Bruce as potential competent-custodians of our club.

I have absolutely nothing against Steve Bruce, he seems like a great chap and is clearly a good motivator for his players.  I just want the best possible things for Newcastle United, and for the reasons outlined above I do not see Steve Bruce as being the best person for the job.

Even our illustrious owner Mike Ashley and his sidekick Lee Charnley can’t claim he’s the best man for the job, given the fact that he was like 67th on their list to replace Rafa, when he quite rightly walked away from the club last summer.  The fact that Charnley couldn’t attract a half decent manager to the club is an indication that any self-respecting coach who knows anything about NUFC wouldn’t go near it with a barge pole whilst still in the clutches of the cheap-sportswear mogul.

It’s hard to imagine what it will be like if the takeover is announced.  I’m going to have to double, triple then quadruple verify the news when it breaks.  Until then, the wait continues.

by Rob Clothier | 25th June 2020