Newcastle United ready themselves for the 21/22 season and are skint. No money for transfers Steve Bruce tells us. The man no one wants to hear from is the only telling the truth it would seem.  You might ask how a club that has not made a permanent transfer in two of the last three transfer windows could be skint.  You could wonder why four full seasons in the Premier League yields just ten players in six separate transfer windows where a fee has been sent?

Some fans want to understand. Some fans are aware of the impact of the Covid Pandemic and that transfer budgets are decimated as a result. Yet Mike Ashley doesn’t want to share any information. The people that run the club remain as silent as ever. Newcastle United are the only club that hasn’t published accounting information for season 19/20 (though Mike Ashley and NUFC are fully behind transparency for fans, remember!).

The only communication we’ve had to do date about the club allegedly being utterly skint is Steve Bruce after each pre-season friendly.  To date we’ve had ‘I’m never going to bullshit them’ – a quote followed up by ‘we haven’t got a lot of money’.  That’s honest by NUFC manager standards though once again a Newcastle United manager is spending pre-season talking to the press about why we are skint.

Has Bruce got that sinking feeling yet?  Was he told it would be different? Was he told if he kept United in the league, he’d have money to spend? I have no idea, but most managers arrive at United feeling like they’re the one to change things and end up  leaving knowing they won’t be the last one to spend pre-season (and beyond) bemoaning a lack of available funds.

Making predictions in pre-season could make a fool of me and we could sign Joe Willock and then a few more to make it a summer to remember.  However, I can’t help but think back to the intensely enjoyable-yet-stressful Rafa Benitez tenure where the Spaniard continued to publicly fight for the funds he needed.  There was a very public spat with his employer about money being made available. Mike Ashley took up to £34m out of the club in the summer of 2018.  Is Bruce so naïve to think the same may have not happened again?

Maybe Bruce knows the score, maybe he doesn’t. He says isn’t going to bullshit us.  If that’s the case, could he confirm what the point of Newcastle United is beyond existing long enough to make the owner a massive profit?  Could he confirm why the club has no money?  While he’s at it could he let us know, in this era of transparency and ‘no bullshit’ why other clubs continue to buy up land around their stadiums and NUFC sold their lease on the land at Strawberry Place to enable our owner to make a few quid?

There’s always been a school of thought that the manager, particularly the managers employed by Mike Ashley, have an impossible job. They have to manage their meagre  squads, miserable transfer budgets and ‘expectation’ of supporters who want more than the club’s remit of survival each season.  I understand that argument.  I also understand that Steve Bruce is adamant that he won’t ‘bullshit’ fans.  So, what will it be Steve?

If Bruce has indeed been shafted in the transfer market (and if he has no money to spend and no players to buy – he has been shafted) then how long will he go along with the whole charade? What’s in it for him beside the lucrative salary.  Steve Bruce did not look a well man last season for large parts. He did not look like someone who relished going to work each day when the pressure was at its highest. So why continue to front the Mike Ashley regime while he takes the shit for his owners’ failure to adequately operate the football club.

There must be a line in the sand moment.  Bruce walked from Hull on the eve of the season in 2016 as they prepared for another season in the Premier League.  Bruce felt he did not have the support of the clubs’ owners to be able to have a shot of keeping the Tigers up.  Whatever you think of Bruce, this was a principled stance and events since have justified Bruce’s belief that the owners of that club are fit for purpose.  Will there be a similar moment from the manager at Newcastle United?

Bruce may look at Wilson, Saint-Maximin and others and think if he can keep them fit (don’t laugh) then there’ll always be a chance of giving teams a game.  Yet it is Bruce who consistently calls other sides ‘big clubs’ or even ‘big big clubs’.  It’s Bruce who talks up opponents and their players. It is Bruce who treats sides in tenth place when we face them (Arsenal) like they are on another level to his own club.

Perhaps Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley deserve each other are made for each other and all of that.  No other established Premier League club spends as infrequently on first team players as Newcastle United.  There must be a reason for it, but it is unexplained.

Steve Bruce is eventually going to have to decide if he wants to be complicit in this policy or to take a stand.  Eventually spending less on players than nearly every other club will result in relegation for NUFC.  Steve Bruce says he isn’t bullshitting fans.  If he doesn’t get any money to spend this season he might want to look at who is being bullshitted, and it won’t just be fans.

ALEX HURST – @tfalex1892