Sheffield Wednesday: We caught up with a Newcastle United writer to see how Steve Bruce is getting on at St James Park
It seems a long time since Steve Bruce’s departure to Newcastle United from Sheffield Wednesday and for good reason – the Owls are on a roll under permanent replacement Garry Monk.
Things have not gone quite so smoothly for Bruce up north however, with the Magpies sat in 19th place in the Premier League fresh off a 5-0 thrashing at Leicester this weekend.
We caught up with Newcastle United writer Liam Kennedy, of the Shields Gazette, to discuss the first months of Bruce’s reign in the north east.
Bruce was a controversial choice as Newcastle boss. What did you make of his appointment?
In his career Bruce has not done anything to suggest he should be in the running for another Premier League job. His only qualification for getting the Newcastle job was that he was a Geordie - which he nauseatingly told us over and over again at the start of his reign. His birthplace got him through the door, but skills pay the bills. Bruce does not look like he has the tactical awareness or organisational skill to get this group of players playing.
He seemed to have a good thing going at Wednesday - what did you make of his decision to move north?
Totally understandable. As mentioned the chance to manage a Premier League club again, and one he supports, would be too much for anyone to turn down. When Bruce got the call he must have felt like all of his Christmases had come at once.
Newcastle is a massive club with huge potential - get it right and United can be a force in English football again. Getting it right under the constraints of Mike Ashley's regime was even too much for Rafa Benitez. In that sense, Bruce never stood a chance - and he think he knows that, but could not resist the pull.
The fans staged a high-profile protest in the club's first home game of the season - what is the collective mindset of the support now?
This protest is not against Bruce - he is merely a symptom of the disease. Ashley has starved the life out of supporters and many have now had enough - this will become ever more apparent as Newcastle's crowds continue to float around the 45k mark (take out Manchester United next weekend). People seem to think this apathy - it could not be further from the truth. People do not want to see Newcastle lose, nor do they not care - they are staying away because they want the best for their football club, they want Ashley gone and a return of hope to Tyneside.
How has Bruce done, all things considered? What are the major differences between his and Rafa Benitez's Newcastle sides?
To compare Rafa Benitez's Newcastle with Bruce's this season is like trading your Ferrari in for a Fiat 500. Organised, compact, a team with identity and purpose to a disorganised mess, without a clear system or style. This Bruce team is a shambles at present. He's changed formation more times this season - he did it four times in one half against Brighton last week - than Newcastle have mustered shots on target.
Stats tell the story - Newcastle have scored the least amount of goals, have the least amount of expected goals from the games this season and are 18th in goals against.
Leicester would not have happened under Rafa. It was Newcastle's worst defeat for three and a half years.
Yesterday's result was clearly pretty miserable - where does Bruce go from here?
Bruce is likely to get time. Owner Ashley is personally invested in this appointment, like no other before. Steve McClaren got 2/3 of a season, it would be no shock to see Bruce get the full campaign. But with Newcastle, you just never know.
How much pressure is Bruce already under as Newcastle boss?
Massive, from the fanbase at least. The debacle against Brighton was followed up very quickly by the Leicester City capitulation. Newcastle need results. At present they look like a team already staring relegation in the face. The fans never wanted him, but were willing to give him a chance. That honeymoon period is well and truly over after the last fortnight.