Steve Bruce has been in charge at Newcastle for just over 5 weeks. While he started well enough in pre-season, the Premier League has proven to be a lot more challenging, as one would expect.
Steve Bruce’s appointment was met with reservations from many quarters of the fanbase. It was not a question of whether he was a step down from Rafa Benitez, as he clearly was. It was whether would be out of his depth as the head coach of Newcastle United.
We were dead against his appointment initially, preferring someone like Rudi Garcia or Quique Sanchez Flores. However, Bruce impressed us with his ability to get the players focused during pre-season. We also were thrilled that he was able to keep the squad intact.
We expected an exodus but instead we’re treated to a squad of players who seemed to really like the new head coach and were excited with his appointment. That the likes of Isaac Hayden, Sean Longstaff, Martin Dubravka, and Fabian Schar enthusiastically gave their support to Steve Bruce was enough for us to do likewise.
Sky Sports has asked a panel of three pundits a simple question – Can Steve Bruce be blamed for Newcastle’s issues?
One of the pundits gave an answer that we find to be a bit demeaning to players like Hayden, Dubravka, Longstaff, and Schar, among others.
This is the answer to the above question by Daily Mail Football Editor Ian Ladyman:
“The issue with Newcastle is very simple. Benitez, in his own way, managed to essentially keep a Championship group of footballers in the Premier League for two seasons, which was a terrific achievement. He did it his own way, he’s a very clever coach and very clever person and he got the job done.
“Whoever came in after him was going to find a dressing room short on quality, despite the fact they spent money on Almiron last season and spent big on a centre-forward over the summer.
“Generally speaking, it’s a very workaday group of players and whoever came in after Rafa was going to have to prove themselves as astute as him, not in the same way, but to find a way of getting 20 per cent more out of players than they’ve got to give.
“Steve Bruce is the one to do that and it’s going to be a very long season for him indeed.
“As a group of people and a group of individuals, I don’t think it’s the worst dressing room in the world. I actually think they’ve got some good lads in there, who over the last couple of seasons, were prepared to do what was necessary to stay up.
“I don’t think it’s mentality or personality that’s the issue, I just don’t think they’re good enough.”
You can question whether the squad is built in a manner fit for Premiership survival without claiming the players are at a Championship level. For example, we don’t have any proven Premier League goal scorers. That is a calculated risk taken by the Newcastle hierarchy.
If Joelinton and Miguel Almiron do adapt quickly and score goals, it will not be because Steve Bruce found a way to get 20 per cent more out of their ability. Likewise, if they fail to get goals, it will be because they are not goal scorers but were unwisely relied on to be.
However, that hardly means the players are not good enough. It means the powers that be failed to address a key area for the upcoming season. It also means the squad is unbalanced, but it doesn’t mean they are at a Championship level.
These players are good enough, and it is up to Steve Bruce, like Rafa Benitez did, to get the best out of them. Ladyman might as well say that half of the Premier League consists of players not good enough for the Premier League. They may not be good enough for the top six, but the Premier League consists of 20 teams.
If Newcastle struggle this season, it is because of the actions of Mike Ashley. It is not Steve Bruce’s fault. It is not that the players are not good enough. It is due to Mike Ashley and his lack of vision for this club.