Though the 2018-2019 Premier League season is in its introductory phase, Steve Bruce has given fans and pundits alike plenty to think about. While the course that the team has taken over the past few weeks is what many expected, it still is the source of bewilderment for all spectators.
A few have tried to portray Newcastle fans as the villains for supposedly “having it out for Steve Bruce.” In this false narrative, the Newcastle fans are supposedly happy to see that Steve Bruce is failing as it essentially confirms their first doubts. Admittedly, the experience of having your first impressions validated is fulfilling to say the least, but this narrative fails to paint the entire picture about what has transpired on Tyneside.
The first myth is that Newcastle fans had it out for Steve Bruce from the very beginning. Sure, there were doubts when news of his appointment broke, but since Bruce has been hired, Newcastle fans have actually been incredibly tolerant of him. As news of the signings came through the door, excitement levels soared and resentment towards Mike Ashley for allowing Rafa Benitez to leave took the backseat.
As the new season drew closer, fans generally shared the sentiment that they would wait to see what Steve Bruce managed to do with the players at his disposal before passing judgement. Around 47,000 fans funneled into St. James’ Park in the first competitive game since Rafa Benitez’s departure excited to watch Steve Bruce lead his new players.
Lately, a few pundits have come out and stated that Steve Bruce deserves more time. Is that really true though? Does he actually deserve it?
The reality is that the amount of time a “new guy” gets is based entirely on what he has done up until that point and what he does from the get-go. When Pep Guardiola first took the managerial position at Manchester City, he endured a rather difficult spell. Not many turned on him, and he was instead afforded time due to his past accomplishments. There was simply no reason to question his understanding of the game, because he entered the job as a man that had won wherever he went. Additionally, while his team was learning how to play according to Guardiola’s preferences, they showed promising glimpses of what they could accomplish.
The reality here at Newcastle is that Steve Bruce’s putrid record in the Premier League does not inspire ANY confidence in his abilities as a manager. Everywhere Bruce has gone, he has failed. There are simply not enough success stories attached to Bruce’s name. Despite this, fans waited to see what he would get out of the players before definitively deciding whether to brand him capable or inept.
The Arsenal game was generally branded a match that Newcastle is expected to lose. Truth be told, that Arsenal match was 100% winnable given the state of Arsenal squad on that day. Despite the fact that Steve Bruce did very little in that game to demonstrate he is capable, the majority of fans waited for the Norwich game to get a fair glimpse into what Bruce had to offer. Against Norwich, he once again showed no promise. The Newcastle side fell flat on its face after Steve Bruce refused to correct his obviously dysfunctional 3-5-2, which leaves Newcastle looking unconvincing in both attack and defense.
Sure, it was Norwich’s first game at home in the Premier League as a newly-promoted side, so the match was always going to be tough. That is no excuse though. Norwich is a side that barely strengthened their squad as they made the jump from the Championship to the Premier League, and Newcastle showed absolutely nothing against them. Overall, there are absolutely zero positives to takeaway from the first two matches. Nada.
That being said, the spotlight may be shining extra bright on Steve Bruce, but he has not proven himself to be worthy of a spotlight to begin with. Hence, fans are certainly not in the wrong for affording little time to Steve Bruce. His horrific track record affords him no extra time, and he has done little to prove himself worthy of managing the club since he has gotten here.
For example, he has got Isaac Hayden serving as an all-important extra attacker and wing-backs operating with their feet basically tied together. It is not a matter of having it out for Steve Bruce. Instead, it comes down to the fact that he could do some serious damage to the club overall based on his short tenure here so far. These early stages in Steve Bruce’s tenure simply mirror Steve McClaren’s devastating tenure too well.
With the fans in the clear, the next question that is worth considering is: “Does Steve Bruce deserve blame for the dangerous road that Newcastle seems set to travel down?”
The answer to that is also no, and that may surprise you. Steve Bruce is a fan of this club; it is the one that he has followed since his boyhood years. Like any other confident fan of the club would, he jumped at the chance to manage his boyhood club. As a man that has miraculously carved out a managerial career, he is simply living out his fantasy by holding the title Newcastle United manager in front of his name. Fans cannot blame him for believing in himself and trying his luck at his favorite club.
The real blame falls on the shoulders of Mike Ashley. He is the one that first drove away Rafa Benitez and then chose Steve Bruce as the next manager. Mike Ashley wanted a manager that knew their place and wouldn’t dare to challenge the hierarchy that exists at the club. In Mike Ashley’s eyes, Steve Bruce was a manager that was okay with having little control over club matters off the pitch, so he handed Bruce the keys to the car.
As a character of a famous American TV show (guess who and on which show) once said, “you don’t get mad at the child for driving the car and eventually crashing it; you get mad at the adult who handed the child the keys and told him to drive.”