“I would like to thank Steve personally for his services to Newcastle United. He is a man of integrity and class and he has conducted himself with great dignity during this difficult time. Steve worked tirelessly to try and bring success to Newcastle United.
He has the utmost respect of all the players, staff and management and he leaves with our very best wishes and sincere thanks. We feel that a change is now needed in order to give the club the best possible chance of securing its Premier League future. A further announcement on a successor to Steve will be made in due course.”
As appropriate as these words seem, the Steve in question is not Bruce, but McClaren. Direct quotes from the club statement issued just over five years ago sound frustratingly accurate once again, with Steve Bruce looking a dead man walking as Newcastle sleepwalk down the Premier League table.
To say Bruce was an unpopular appointment at Newcastle would an understatement of epic proportions. Though he lovingly referred to the Magpies as his “Boyhood club” upon his appointment, the fact that he’d managed bitter rivals, Sunderland, less than a decade earlier left a very bitter taste in the mouth.
But he deserved a chance. And he’s had a chance. Bruce has spent £100 million since becoming manager in July 2019 and the team is worse now than before. Newcastle fans will be sick of hearing how the side is “lacking quality” from the man whose job it is to assemble and maximise said quality.
How much involvement Bruce had in the £40 million signing of Joelinton is not known, but the Brazilian has barely looked a £400,000 player since signing. Either Bruce is responsible for the worst signing in Newcastle’s history, or he has chosen to remain silent on the issue. Whichever is true, his actions have shown disregard for the people who truly pay his wages – the fans.
Joelinton is not to blame. The nutcase who paid £40 million for him is. The Brazilian’s inability to kick a football between two posts and a crossbar has been masked by a brilliant debut campaign from Callum Wilson, who, along with Allan Saint-Maximin has been one of only two genuinely successful Bruce signings.
One injury to Wilson and Newcastle’s plight becomes clear. This side cannot score goals and is not good enough to stay in the Premier League and unless Fulham’s form deserts them, Newcastle look doomed for the drop.
The question often asked of Newcastle fans is what do they expect? They expect to be told the truth. Toon fans adored Rafael Benitez because he told it how it was and was not a puppet for Mike Ashley’s waffle. Bruce has been dismissive of the fans, promised things he could not deliver and is falling on his sword.
Steve Bruce has managed both sides of the Steel City Derby, the Second City Derby and the Tyne-Wear Derby – hardly a man to endear himself to a fanbase. Magpies fans are proud of their city and of their club. They cannot be proud of a man who described the day Newcastle beat his Sunderland side 5-1 as the worst day of his career, regardless of the context.
It may be tribal, but it’s the fundamental basis of club football. Fans adore their club, some more than most. But all Newcastle fans hate Sunderland and that is why Steve Bruce can’t credibly call himself a Newcastle fan anymore.
The only reason Mike Ashley continues to back Bruce is because the fans aren’t in the stadiums. If the fans are able to return before the end of the season and Bruce remains manager, expect the most toxic atmosphere the Premier League has ever seen.
Though the Newcastle hierarchy are behind Bruce at the moment, comments from the prodigal son Rafa Benitez about a desired return to England may sow a seed of doubt into the situation and maybe he should leave St James’ Park sooner rather than later.