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Bruce Explains Reasoning Behind Unexpected Team Selection

Steve Bruce was asked during his press conference on Friday, whether there would be changes due to the lack of goals without Callum Wilson in the squad. Bruce had continued with the 4-3-3 despite having to put some square pegs into round holes.

Bruce’s answer was succinct but not very forthright. He simply said ‘there could be.’ As it turned out, there definitely was some big changes in the works for yesterday’s draw against Tottenham.

Bruce shifted back to the 5-3-2, the formation he used throughout his first preseason on Tyneside. He also juggled his starting lineup handing some unexpected starts to players who had been frozen out for the past few months.

All three (Matt Ritchie, Sean Longstaff, and Jacob Murphy) were outstanding yesterday. Ritchie put in a typically fiery performance which we have sorely missed. He combined with Jacob Murphy down the flanks to consistently get balls into the box.

Probably the biggest shock was Bruce’s decision to drop Joe Willock and bring Sean Longstaff back into the fold. The move paid off as Sean was excellent with his work rate, passing, and pressing while Willock was extremely motivated when coming on as a second-half substitute.

After the match, Bruce explained the thinking behind his decision. Here is what Bruce said about not starting Willock as published in The Shields Gazette:

“He’s only young, and he’s played six or seven on the bounce.

“I just thought with Sean (Longstaff), who’s waited a long time for a chance. There were some big calls. I’m sure there were a few raised eyebrows before it like there normally is. But this is what I’m paid for, to make decisions.

“Thankfully, to come on as a sub was the right one because he got us as a result, which was very pleasing.”

After the match, Willock admitted that he was disappointed to not have started. Here is what he told NUFC TV:

“Obviously, I was disappointed to be on the bench. I never want to be on the bench, you know.

“So to come on to help the team is something I think I needed for myself. I’m happy that we got a point out of it.”

This collective performance now will have a few players on their toes. Longstaff, Ritchie, and Murphy will be very determined to keep their places while Joe Willock, Javier Manquillo, and Jamal Lewis will be desperate to get back in the team.

So this week of training will be very important as the competition for places will be very tense. Couple that with the possible return of Callum Wilson for Burnley next Sunday, and hopefully, we’ll see another rousing display at Turf Moor.

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30 comments so far

  • Legolas

    Apr 5, 2021 at 11:43 AM

    Comment #1

    Sorry for the re-post, but bus has moved.

    Debate and opinions is what this blog is all about.

    Krafth is awful, his fault for first goal and I cringe when I see him on the team sheet. The only thing is that he can play in a three whereas Manquillo can’t.

    Murphy was outstanding, I have said for months he should be starting, and deserves another contract. I hope he gets one, as Gayle has supposedly been offered one.

    Didn’t have Ritchie starting but he also played well. Always tries and loved his reaction after the goal. Did anyone see the clip?

    Joe from linton can play football, holds the ball up and can beat a man, has no pace and is not a goal scorer. But has a place in the team/squad, I think.

  • Toon Tang

    Apr 5, 2021 at 11:43 AM

    Comment #2

    This is where Bruce really boils my Swede man, we had some really good attacking moves yesterday that could easily have resulted in more goals, the formation with murphs and Richie as wing backs looked a lot more attack minded and we actually looked like a balanced team who knew what they were doing (for the most part)

    But you can bet your right testical, we’ll revert back to a solid back 5 with ultra negative defencive crappy tactics against an awful Burnley side who’ve been similar peggings to us this season.

    Why does Bruce always revert back to his ‘play for a nil nil and hope to scab something’ after we play so well? It happened earlier in the season if I remember correctly and it’s one of my many pet peeves.

  • jane

    Apr 5, 2021 at 11:52 AM

    Comment #3

    i think he will stick with the formation as he usually does stick with formations for a few games until it stops working. i don’t think we will see a defensive flat back 5 again (hopefully!). more of a concern to me is reverting to 433 or 442 especially with players out of position which have been the more recent failures.

  • Munster Mag

    Apr 5, 2021 at 11:55 AM

    Comment #4

    Bruce, he’s a seriously tetchy sod isn’t he. Bristles with indignation that we can question his team choice etc

    I’ll give him some credit though. He has clearly had rucks with Ritchie and lobby but played bith and they did well. Lobby’s pass to Joel was sublime. It was a massive pity he wasn’t the one making the pass to Miggy, instead of Gayle.

  • Pottsclock

    Apr 5, 2021 at 11:55 AM

    Comment #5

    I think Fernandez has to come in for Kraft if we play a similar formation against Burnley, which hopefully we will. We need Fernandez’s strength, heading and reading of the game to counter the power that Burnley always play up front.

    Formation aside, the main difference yesterday was energy. Those who say Ritchie has lost pace – well he never had it – but he always has had energy, fight and a tackle in him. Never lazy. And he can cross a ball well. Not sure what happened but maybe his wanting a move away in January caused him to fall down the pecking order.

  • Mund

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:01 PM

    Comment #7

    Ben Jacobs
    An appeal is highly unlikely. My sense is Newcastle are comfortable losing since they have put Beloff under more scrutiny by doing so & been able to release the arbitration remit, too.

    Dell Splashing sweat symbol
    It was like a tactical loss, obviously they wanted to win, but even within loss there is more focus on the guy being impartial now that it’s been brought up. Hardly a blow to our case yet.

    Ben Jacobs
    Replying to

    and 4 others
    And it gave them the chance to release some key information about the arbitration, which in turn shows PIF are still intent on completion. No point arguing over separation if PIF have moved on.

  • Optimistic prime

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:02 PM

    Comment #8

    Krafth has all the attributes to be a CB, more so than a RB.

    Yet he was awful at times yesterday, without doubt to blame for their Equaliser.

    Should’ve been kicked straight into row z.

    Why was Clark dropped?

    Hes been great and he has a goal in him.

    I thought Fed was close before break, where is he?

    Carrol, Frazer? And why didn’t Wilock start, he has more energy and ability than most on our books..

    We’re all over on the pitch and off it, the ship is as steady as the one they used to have at the Spanish city.

    What I wouldn’t give to get in the ground for a match!

  • Optimistic prime

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:05 PM

    Comment #9


    Is there any sign that a decision is close?

  • bettyswallocks

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:07 PM

    Comment #10

    @3……… Totally agree Jib.

  • Mund

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:08 PM

    Comment #11


    Nothing which is frustrating as it would be good to get a sense of time scale but on the flip side I’m happy it’s not played out and will trust in the process and the legal team to bring it home.

  • Ron Knee

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:10 PM

    Comment #12

    Toon step up a gear in relegation fight
    Newcastle were unrecognisable from the side that surrendered 3-0 at Brighton two weeks ago – and it was not just down to the change in formation which shifted Steve Bruce’s team from 4-3-1-2 to the wing-back propelled five-man rearguard drilled into them by his predecessor Rafael Benítez. Granted, that default system helped immeasurably as they earned a deserved point against an unusually slapdash José Mourinho defence, but there was also a wholesale shift in attitude. Have players who seemed to want Bruce sacked reached a rapprochement with their manager or did they simply raise their game against top-six opposition? The answer is likely to be revealed at Turf Moor where Burnley lie in wait next Sunday, and then again at home to West Ham the following weekend. (LT)

  • bettyswallocks

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:14 PM

    Comment #13

    OP…….. ‘ Should have been kicked into row Z .’ Do you mean Krafth or the ball ?

  • Optimistic prime

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:16 PM

    Comment #14


    With there being no time scale we’re rehashing the same info, FRUSTRATING AF.

    I’d like to think a decision isn’t far off, yet who knows.

    Possibly a decision won’t be revealed until the clubs league status for next year is known.

    Throwing that out there as I it could possibly disrupt players/manager/coaches more than they already are.

  • Optimistic prime

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:17 PM

    Comment #15


    I’d have done both.

    Krafth wouldn’t have landed yet.

  • Regan

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:21 PM

    Comment #16

    Kraft wouldn’t have landed yet….pmsl…

    Bit like a jaap stam penalty..

  • Mund

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:22 PM

    Comment #17


    I think your right as I think even if the decision is made it will be left until the end of the season. But who knows? I’d like to think we might get a positive nod if there is one to give before that but my focus now is always on the next game and survival.

  • lesh

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:24 PM

    Comment #18


    Naughty Betty’s @10


  • lesh

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:28 PM

    Comment #19

    Optimistic prime

    I honestly believe that the only news we’ll get from the Ashley camp’ll be if and when the takeover’s been cleared and fully signed off by all.

    There might be leaks in the event that EPL won’t clear the deal, but there’ll be nowt officially announced.

    I think

  • Regan

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:30 PM

    Comment #20

    Anyways…catch up later..

    Nothing worse than being a married man on a bank holiday ..

    Kicking pebbles emoji…

  • bettyswallocks

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:32 PM

    Comment #21

    Lesh……Naughty but true as we are both fully aware.

    I see your mob have been at Winston’s Statue again. Disgraceful disrespect.

  • WLtoon

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:33 PM

    Comment #22

    Good afternoon fella`s, blowing a gale up here and we actually had snow last night.

    Very happy about our display yesterday and for me Ritchie and Murphy must start next game.
    Ritchie keeps everyone on their toes, he would make a good captain, and Murphy once again played very well.
    The worrying thing for me is our failure to repeat a good performance.
    Burnley next week would be the perfect opportunity to push on, but will we ?

  • WLtoon

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:38 PM

    Comment #23

    Must of had 8 hours kip for the first time in years. in fact , i think the last time i slept that long was when i was in my mothers womb 🙂

  • Ron Knee

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:52 PM

    Comment #24



  • WLtoon

    Apr 5, 2021 at 12:58 PM

    Comment #25

    Everyone has buggered off, must be me , ah well , im off to buy some calories

  • fairscup

    Apr 5, 2021 at 1:18 PM

    Comment #26

    Darlow for Dubs
    Feds for Krafth (shouldn’t even have been there, the keeper was just going to gather it)
    Willock for Longstaff or Shelvey? – you choose.
    Wilson for Gayle

    Otherwise same team and use Maxi as impact sub (if required) as he can’t do a full game.

    Ritchie’s presence was invaluable, should be captain, he also puts in wicked crosses.

    Did anyone notice the brilliant volley he had that was blocked, it would have screamed in.

  • SholaShow

    Apr 5, 2021 at 1:48 PM

    Comment #27

    For crying out loud.

    I can’t stay away for any real length of time whilst our future is so up in the air. Feels like this moment in history is peak NUFC – teetering between a sublime future or a tragic one and it’s all in the hands of Steve chuffing Bruce to keep us up and then a shadowy arbitration panel.

    We HAVE to stay up. The latest I’ve read on the arbitration confirms PIF are still at the table and makes me believe we will hear something approximately June, but that is surely contingent on our continued PL status because I just cannot see PIF being interested in a Championship club, no matter which angle I look at it from.


    Looking at our fixtures I have us on 36 going into the Fulham match at best and them on 33 at best. I REALLY hope that isn’t the case. I want safety before that.

  • SholaShow

    Apr 5, 2021 at 1:51 PM

    Comment #28

    Next season is either going to be Championship football with Bruce or more likely another duffer, or PL football as the richest club in the world under somebody like Rafa or Mourinho.

    That’s where we’re at.

  • The mighty wyn

    Apr 5, 2021 at 1:51 PM

    Comment #29

    I’m hoping fulham lose their next 6 games. Bit of a long shot but you never know. Their loan players might fancy it less and less if they keep losing.

  • Just a Fat Dave Bassett

    Apr 5, 2021 at 2:05 PM

    Comment #30

    Clark was dropped for tactical reasons Id sayp. The formation seemed like a compromise between what Bruce wants and what Jones wants. Jones wants 433 with very attacking fullbacks, but Bruce is too hesitant and picks ultra defensive fullbacks which defeats the purpose. So you go three at back, putting in two guys who can play both fullback and centre, which allows wingbacks to attack at will. It was the 433 Jones would like to play, but with one of the midfielders moved into defence. Almost 3412 depending on how you view Almirons position. I think Bruce was simply unwilling to go with very attacking fullbacks in a 433 so this was the only solution apart from reverting to 541 or other hated formations.


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