CRAIG HOPE: Instead of telling critics to ‘eat humble pie,’ Steve Bruce himself should remain humble
‘Criticism’ has given way to ‘credit’ as the buzzword surrounding Newcastle United. Who deserves it? Who wants it? Who will abolish it?
On the back of their 12th place finish, Steve Bruce is in the market for some, calling those who expressed concern amid a run of two wins in 21 to “ eat a humble pie. ”
Such comments unnecessarily arouse supporters, 95 percent of whom used a poll in the local paper to call him up in March. What they are seeing now is an attempt to invalidate previous criticism based on improvement.
Steve Bruce told his critics to ‘eat modest pie’ amid the impressive end of the season in Newcastle
The club’s fortunes were partly turned around by the goals of Arsenal mercenary Joe Willock
Rather than talking about “ humble pie, ” Bruce should remain humble and accept the praise he and his team deserve.
Driven by borrower Joe Willock’s goals – seven in as many games – they realized their potential too late in the final weeks of the campaign, winning five of eight to allay fears of relegation.
One myth that must be debunked is that Bruce worked with a limited number of players all the time. This theory has been presented for the past two seasons to counteract the absence of identity, desperate performance and over-reliance on certain players, with the idea that Bruce made the most of a bad job.
In reality, it is a team with enough talent and character that is capable of staying in the bottom six for much more than half a season. They finished 10th with fewer tools in 2018.
It’s a myth that Newcastle’s roster is limited – they finished 10th with fewer tools in 2018
Yes, injuries and Covid-19 have not helped this term, but Newcastle was not alone in this. They were also just as invisible with their best players available. Star player Allan Saint-Maximin, for example, played in 11 of their 17 Premier League defeats, as did top scorer Callum Wilson.
Criticism was therefore valid. You could say some of it was constructive as it highlighted the selection and strategic shortcomings that have been addressed in recent weeks.
And thus to ‘credit’. In the wake of a 3-0 defeat at Brighton in March, owner Mike Ashley announced within 12 hours that Bruce was not going anywhere, despite the consensus that his tenure was expiring.
It was, on reflection, an inspired move, immediately shifting the burden back onto the players – even if some of them wanted a different boss, they didn’t get one.
Bruce changed staff and form and thus changed the course of Newcastle’s season. Credit, there you have it.
Newcastle is a club stuck in perpetual purgatory, disconnected from their fan base
Two wins against relegated teams in the last week may have masked the story of a turbulent campaign in terms of competitive position, but there is no doubt that it ended amid relative calm and a collective will to be better than they were.
That aside, the arrival of coach Graeme Jones in January – as well as Willock’s signing – was hailed by those close to the locker room as a major impact on and off the field.
Jones has won respect and offered a fresh voice when needed, as Newcastle’s winter of discontent threatened to send them back to the championship.
Supporter’s discontent persists – evidence by Bruce booed at St James’ Park last week – but a change of head coach is unlikely to take place this summer, not when Ashley has seen how to survive with the staff and players already in situ.
The arrival of Graeme Jones (right) in the dugout has been hailed as a huge impact
Willock’s permanent signing would bring some positivity, but that could be a long shot based on the cost and, more so, the prospect that Arsenal would want him among their numbers.
In all likelihood, Newcastle will be stuck in their perpetual purgatory next season, a club disconnected from its fan base with falling attendance numbers to match lower expectations.
As for Bruce, a summer without antagonistic sounds will at least cool the tensions, and since they have boiled over into fierce opposition to his presence, the sound of silence will be welcome.
Because quietly receiving credit and criticism (and treating those two impostors exactly the same) would be as sensible a tactic as any advancement.