The Only Mistake…
It was Wednesday 17th July 2019 when the news broke.
‘Newcastle United have appointed Steve Bruce as their head coach on a three-year contract’ the headline read, and from that moment onwards what we are collectively experiencing today became inevitable.
We all knew this was coming – if you didn’t, you were either kidding yourself or you had not been paying attention to Steve Bruce’s managerial record.
Yesterdays performance was poor – not the worst we’ve seen under the stewardship of the man from Corbridge, but it was a display of the kind that we have come to expect.
Devoid of ideas, cumbersome in our build up, no cutting edge and utterly reliant upon pieces of individual brilliance from a player who I guarantee will not be wearing the black and white stripes of Newcastle United in season 2022-23.
Having lost all three of their home games without registering, Wolves didn’t have to do much to win yesterday’s game. Having taken a 1-0 lead Bruce almost immediately switched from a back four to a back five – Bruno Lage probably couldn’t believe his luck that an opposition coach who now needed to chase the game inexplicably decided that the best way to do so was to employ a more defensive set up that included at least 3 of its main protagonists (ASM, Almiron and Hayden) playing out of position.
Even when Hendrick equalised, was anyone even remotely confident that we would go on to claim a result that would see the 3,000 or so travelling fans heading back north aal wi’ smiling faces’?
If you were, I would again suggest you haven’t been paying attention because Newcastle United has for some time now been club that the coach, players and fans of every struggling team hope to see next up on their fixture list.
The defeat, once again and like so many before it had an air of depressing inevitability.
Only two men have the power to change the current narrative surrounding our once proud club – Stephen Roger Bruce and Michael James Wallace Ashley.
We all know Ashley won’t act, so as the fan he claims to be it is now down to Bruce to do the right thing and walk away…
Why should he?
Because every day that Bruce continues to occupy the dugout at St James’ Park constitutes another day that it will take whoever succeeds him to repair the on and off pitch damage he is doing to the club he purports to support.
On the pitch, Bruce’s continued presence continues to see players who had previously been lauded by fans and coveted by opposing teams regress to the point they are now unrecognisable from the player he inherited – the biggest and most notable being Miguel Almiron.
Almiron yesterday looked shot – a shadow of the exciting, forward thinking, threatening player that took our collective breath away against Huddersfield just 5 months before Bruce walked through the Barrack Road door.
Has Almiron become a bad player? No.
Has Almiron become a badly coached and poorly utilised player as a result of being asked to play a position that he is simply not comfortable in? Yes, and I fear he will no doubt be another talent frantically asking his representatives to manoeuvre a transfer out of the club as we approach the end of the season.
Off the pitch, Bruce’s continued presence has now caused a culture of perpetual negativity amongst the fans that is so ingrainedI’m sure even a run of 15 straight victories wouldn’t see him accepted as the man to lead the club going forwards.
For many, he passed the point of no return on January 2nd, 2021 at Bramall Lane, for me however he passed the point of no return on 17th July 2019.
Incomprehensibly however, the situation is not going to change anytime soon.
Why? Because the club, the fans, and the city of Newcastle Upon Tyne are now merely collateral damage in a game of chickenbetween Steve Bruce and a man that simply refuses to lose at anything other than football – with the winner pocketing the princely sum of approximately three million English pounds that if they were brutally honest, neither of them really need.
Supporting this football club stopped being any kind of fun a long, long time ago.
Lee Forster @LeeDForster
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With players such as Jonjo Shelvey, Callum Wilson and Jamal Lascelles still injured and not estimated to be back until the game against Tottenham later this month, Newcastle went into this matchup with an unchanged starting 11 from the draw against Watford in what looked like a 4-3-2-1 formation. Wolverhampton came into the game without a home win and hoped to end their winless streak against the Magpies.
Joe Willock kicked off for the visitors and within minutes ASM was brought down by Connor Coady who was lucky not to be put in the book by the referee. It wasn’t long before the home fans were taunting the Geordie’s with chants of “There’s only one Mike Ashley”. Newcastle had a penalty claim waved away by the referee after the ball appeared to strike a wolves player on the arm, but it would have been a soft one if the referee had given it.
Wolves took the lead in the 19th minute by a goal from new striker Hee Chan Wang after a misjudged tackle by Sean Longstaff left him facing Karl Darlow who just had to slot it in the net. Darlow will be disappointed to have beaten that easily, but he must not let his head drop and pick himself up. The goal cued the traditional “we want Bruce out” chants by the traveling supporters who have made it clear they want a change in management.
Jeff Hendrick was brought on in the 34th minute for Joe Willock who picked up a hip injury and the sub made an almost instant impact when 6minutes later he buried the ball into the bottom corner of the net from outside the box. The injury to Willock caused a change in formation.
The second half started in a similar fashion with Newcastle having good spells on the ball and French winger Saint Maxim had a chance to put the visitors in the lead but was denied by the wolves keeper. This would prove costly as ten minutes later Wolves took the lead again with Wang grabbing his second goal of the game. Que the chants from the away end. Newcastle received a free kick in a dangerous position after Joelinton drew a foul from Moutinho. The free kick didn’t test anybody as it clattered into the wall. Manquillo was replaced by Murphy in the 70th minute before wolves had another chance to bury the game when Hwang put in a tempting cross that was just out the reach of Jiminez. Newcastle made further subs with Dwight Gayle coming on for Miguel Almiron in an attempt to have an influence on the game, but this didn’t cause any issues for the home side.
Newcastle had a penalty decision turned down after Murphy went to the ground in the box after being under pressure from Marcal by his claims were waved away by the referee. The final whistle came with the result being 2-1 to the home side.
The result leaves Newcastle in 19th position and the pressure continues to mount on manager Steve Bruce. Could this be the end of his tenure in charge of the mags? Only time will tell with an international break coming after this round of fixtures.
One thing is for sure though, I wouldn’t like to be in Bruce’s shoes right now.
Jack Sutton @jsnufctruefaith