Well now that Newcastle United have finally achieved Premier League safety, I was going to shift my attentions to commenting on what SHOULD happen next season…but something cropped up on Monday with regards to Steve Bruce.
Steve, in his infinite wisdom, decided that going on Talksport and conversing with the usual muppets, including Simon Jordan, was a good idea.
Now let me be frank. I approached the interview with low expectations on what was going to be said but sadly, those expectations were beaten and lowered further.
A full blown “sigh” and general resignation to how silly this club has become (as if we needed more proof) reeked out of the contents of said interview. At times, I really wish someone would give the man a gobstopper.
Some have said he came across as pretty arrogant for a Head Coach that has just guided the club to survival by default rather than merit and after going on one of the worst runs of form imaginable . I’m not sure about arrogant but I would venture that Steve Bruce simply doesn’t have the intelligence to be tactful and dare I say it, he is actually honest in his opinion.
He may say what he feels and comes across to some as speaking the truth, which ordinarily would be misplaced but admirable, but in reality he’s proven over his time here that he can’t SEE the truth sufficiently enough to say it accurately. He often seems to be in a different book never mind being on a different page to supporters.
He’s always king of the excuse and forever searching for someone else to blame. So here goes fact checking what was said in Monday’s Talksport Steve Bruce interview.
On missing Allan Saint-Maximin:
“I was always quietly confident that if I got the big players at the top end of the pitch fit because without them it became a bit of a struggle. Allan was missing for the best part of five months and for a team in the bottom half of the Premier League, where we have been for the last few years, we couldn’t function the way we would like to without the best players being fit.”
Verdict: Partial truth but with a heavy question mark.
Saint-Maximin has still made 22 league appearances this season and has played in games when the side has actually lost so his influence hasn’t always come to bear fruit. He shouldn’t be held up as a magical saviour as you have to find a way of winning games without him, instead of using his absence as an excuse. Just a thought Steve.
On the style of play:
“We would always love to be like Liverpool and Man City and be free flowing and open and go to Man City and say let’s take you on.”
Verdict: Rubbish Steve.
This comment is insulting to supporters and is actually an Ashley-ism. The owner has compared us and the big boys a few times before and used them as an excuse to explain away an unwillingness to compete. Nobody I know is saying we should be going to these places and attacking. Nor is anyone saying we should be spending on a par with such clubs. Rafa Benitez knew this and targeted the fixture list accordingly. Defending against Manchester City is acceptable, being negative and giving the likes of Sheffield United, Brighton and Brentford the freedom of the park is most certainly not.
On missing the top players:
“You have to find a way sometimes and be a bit pragmatic. At times, we make no excuses, we have to be. But we have invested money on Almiron, Joelinton, Callum and Allan so there is our threat. Yes you can defend and we will always try to be a team that plays on the counter attack. But unfortunately we have been without them for too long at times.”
Verdict: Contradictory nonsense.
Once again, “We make no excuses” then he goes on to make an excuse. Like I said with Saint-Maximin, he HAS played in a sizable amount of PL games this term (22) as has Callum Wilson (26) Miguel Almiron (31) and Joelinton (29). What galls me is that when these players are out, the replacements aren’t even used to any effect. Dwight Gayle and Andy Carroll have only started four games each and made 11 and 13 sub appearances respectively. Indeed, both have hardly got on the field even when the team have been trailing games. Oh and while I’m on, the repeated use of Joelinton is frankly a joke.
On Allan Saint-Maximin:
“I said when we signed him he was going to be someone who gets you off the edge of your seat and how often do you feel like that about an individual player. He has wonderful natural ability and it wouldn’t surprise me if other teams are looking because his ability is there for everybody to see. He is right. Nobody wants Newcastle to be in a relegation fight. He is a very gifted individual and young, of course. The last thing we want to be doing is selling our better players that is for sure.”
Indeed Saint-Maximin is a great asset to the club and one you could build a side around. Sadly, Bruce has mishandled his fitness in the past and if clubs are indeed looking at him, some would get better out of him than our Head Coach.
On potentially walking away while we were struggling:
“I thought the easy thing would be to say I am not enjoying this anymore and I will walk away. That has never been me. I wanted to batten down the hatches and make sure Newcastle are safe this season. That is all I have focused on. The most important thing for me is the club and there was never any danger of me doing that. I have been working tirelessly and embroiled in keeping the club in the division.”
After £100m worth of investment since his arrival, I wouldn’t expect a manager to be “embroiled in keeping the club in the league” as an official remit. Taking the club backwards should never be championed. As for walking away “not being me”, I’m sure Sheffield United, Wigan, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City, Wigan (again), Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday would strongly disagree because as far as I can see, only the mackems, Aston Villa and Huddersfield actually sacked him. It may be an inconvenient truth but Bruce is a quitter, always looking to bounce into the next job before he is pushed.
On the Graeme Jones appointment:
“It is part and parcel of the whole thing at the time. People said the club appointed someone above me – as if I would accept that. When things are going against you, you can do one of three things. Change your team, change your formation or add somebody to lift us and give us different ideas on the training ground. I am delighted we chose Graeme and he has helped us enormously but the other staff, the two Steves (Clemence and Agnew), Steve Harper, Ben Dawson – they have helped enormously. You can’t stop the talk where you think: ‘hang on a minute, this is ridiculous’. Graeme was my appointment. I interviewed him in London and there were a couple of others in the frame. It was a difficult decision for him because he was going well at Bournemouth but the big thing was him being a Geordie and his love for it and that played a big part.”
Verdict: Partial truth.
I wouldn’t know if Bruce indeed gave his blessing for Jones to come in or if he was indeed parachuted in to bail out a failing coach. Results certainly improved instantly. However, the only flaw I can see in Bruce’s argument is simple – If the rest of the staff are doing decent jobs according to him. So what is the point of Steve Bruce?
On criticism from fans and journalists:
“It is a fantastic football club and if you are a Geordie or from there it is unique. The vast majority of people you speak to on the street are wishing me the best of luck and telling me to take no notice of the rubbish. * It has been very difficult and certain journalists who have been on your show didn’t want me here from day one.** I was never going to be good enough. That is fair enough and that is his opinion and you just have to accept that. But when it is built on the whole thing, just be a bit balanced. You have to accept criticism, it is part and parcel of it, but I think at times it has been unjust. I have always said to try and judge me when I have a fit squad. Here is the big thing. Newcastle in the last 14/15 years have been in the bottom half of the Premier League. We would all love to see Newcastle United being back to signing the Alan Shearers of this world for world record fees but that just isn’t going to happen. It is difficult managing the expectation that is obviously still there.”
Verdict: Utter nonsense.
Our expectations as a fanbase have been driven down repeatedly by the owner of this club and have finally bottomed out at the level whereby appointing Steve Bruce was always going to happen. *I can’t imagine Bruce getting loads of positive fan mail like he said a few weeks ago (unless son Alex Bruce has been very busy with a pen and paper) as for the most part, the fans I speak with have nothing but disdain for the job he’s doing and think he’s taking us backwards. Maybe he strayed into a SR1 postcode? ** Everyone could see from Bruce’s CV that he wasn’t going to be good enough. That said, if the remit is mere survival then he has proven a few wrong for now.
On the takeover:
“The takeover. We were all disappointed and no more so than Mike. We were selling to the Saudi people that would generate the income of the likes of Man City so what supporter wouldn’t like to see that? Until that happens I will do the best I possibly can for the club. It is no secret Mike wants to sell the club and for everybody that is the best thing. I have regular contact with Lee Charnley, the CEO, but when we have been up against it Mike has been steadfast in his support and as a manager you need that. It is not easy but a bit of experience helps you in that situation.”
But what is certain is that no new owners will keep Bruce a minute longer than is necessary. The only interesting thing in these comments is that he has regular contact with Lee Charnley. I was beginning to think he’d gone on holiday to the Bermuda Triangle.
On the style of play:
“I have tried to change things very early and I quickly realised we weren’t capable. We were used to sitting deep and the players were comfortable playing that way. I inherited six centre-halves at the club. After 15/18 months staying that way, after an awful result at Sheffield United I wanted to change if we possibly can. The result was painful for everyone. That is what I meant by it. I wanted it to be slightly different to the low block and there is nothing wrong with that. Rafa is a Champions League winner and got them out of the Championship like that. They were very comfortable playing that way. I didn’t change it. I left it alone simply because it was the best way forward.”
Verdict: Partial truth but blind to the obvious.
Of the six centre halves (five really) Florian Lejeune’s fitness was badly mishandled and then he was shipped out. On the tactical side, if it aint broke, don’t attempt to fix it. The defence we had when Benitez left was our strong point and needed no changes. Bruce was once again, extremely lucky to come into a side that simply needed an attack adding to it. It had lost Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez (not his fault on those two) but all it required was a decent striker added to the mix. Let’s not forget that Bruce told anyone that would listen that he was happy with the squad, that he’d never had so much money afforded to him. Then last summer he was given yet more money and gifted a good striker (Wilson) and while injuries have played a part, as yet he hasn’t managed the squad effectively enough when our top scorer has been out. Oh and the defence has got worse as well.
On his future:
“It is for others to decide. Most clubs will have big discussions and review the season. I am a football person and it is still too early to retire yet. But those conversations will happen over the next couple of weeks, I am sure.”
Verdict: Partial truth but missing the bigger picture.
Any other club would review the situation and see that the season has been a shambles with the Head Coach falling out with players, having digs at the fans, requiring help from yet another head coach, blaming everyone and everything but himself and relying on massive slices of luck and three teams being absolutely shocking. That said, survival has been achieved and another roll of the dice with this manager will be likely next season regardless. Retire? I have some respect for Alan Shearer. At least he knew management wasn’t his forte. A pity Bruce didn’t.
On Joe Willock:
“I think we would all love to make it (permanent). He has five goals since the turn of the year but we have to respect he is Arsenal’s player. If there is a possibility of bringing him back I would love to do it.”
Joe Willock has been a revelation. That said, if he has ambition he won’t be here next season. Get your eyes on Crystal Palace and Southampton for this lad because they will pay both transfer fee and wages. A really good talent.
On a disruptive journalist (Craig Hope):
“He needs putting in his place. Your radio station gives him air and makes him feel a little bit special. He is totally unbalanced, it is always negative and that for me is totally wrong.”
Verdict: False and a quite shocking comment to make.
The journalist in question highlighted a spat between Bruce and Matt Ritchie which was proven to have happened. Journalists can be little sh.ts and managers have to grin and bear it. If results had been positive at the time, nothing would have been made of it. The trouble with this club is, if they don’t like the truth, they ban the source and getting information out of the club is nigh on impossible. They are the worst club in the league for PR.
So there you have it. More guff from Steve Bruce. It’s nothing new, he’s been doing it for years, long before he came to this club. Desperately hoping that he doesn’t get found out and that he can bounce between jobs to see out a career in management. This I don’t have much of a problem with provided that it happens well away from St James Park and Newcastle United but then again Bruce is the perfect fit for THIS Newcastle United under Mike Ashley. Perpetuate the lies, twist the truth, hold back the progress and don’t let the fans get any ideas above their station. This used to be a football club once.
Honesty, integrity, dreams and ambition don’t get a look in. Why would they? Steve Bruce wouldn’t be the one capable of delivering them anyway…