Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley are the worst double act in Premier League history.
They are driving Newcastle down to the Championship, and neither seem to care.
If they did, Bruce would have resigned after that desperate defeat to Brighton, one of the least competitive performances in the Geordies’ recent history.
Or Ashley would have woken up on Monday morning and cleared the decks, sacked Bruce, and lanced the discontent among Newcastle players that is poisoning the training ground.
Instead Ashley stood behind Bruce, admired his “passion” and experience… despite the rest of the world seeing he’s well past his sell by date.
Sometimes I praise owners for giving a head coach time, but not after seeing what has unfolded at St James’ Park since mid December.
Two wins in 20 games, 13 defeats, only 14 goals scored and 35 against.
He’s got a squad who don’t believe in him, and who downed tools at the weekend, showing no fighting spirit or pride. Totally directionless.
This is not a bad collection of players. They are a lower mid-table outfit.
Bruce’s first season was ok, helped by the drilling and organisation left behind by Rafa Benitez. But this term it’s unravelled.
Bruce never seems to be the one to take the blame. He shirks responsibility. Matt Ritchie called him a “coward”, so others have noticed too.
He exudes misery… talking up average opposition, moaning about injuries, and talking in meaningless generalities.. while rival coaches give insightful detailed answers.
With Ashley it feels personal. Like he wants to mess the club around because he feels personally wounded because of the stick he’s taken.
He’s the in-house aggressor, the more fans say they want him out, or journalists, the more he won’t. There’s an element of spite: “I own this club and I’ll do what I like, on my terms.”
Every owner makes some bad decisions, but this is wilful stubbornness.
Bruce trades on being a Man U legend, in the game for ages and is part of the old boys merry-go-round that always gets the phone call for another job.
What is on Bruce’s CV that means he deserves to boss Newcastle, or his past clubs Sunderland, Villa, Sheffield Wednesday, or proves he can make these clubs better? He goes in, there’s a little bump and leaves them no better off, distinctly average.
By keeping Steve Bruce at the club Ashley is saying “the more you moan, I am leaving him there”.
They might get away with it and stay up.
But poor Newcastle fans have gone from thinking they’re being taken over by Saudi Arabia and signing Mbappe, to a relegation fight, in the space of a few months. That’s as bad as it gets. From hope, to decline and possibly relegation.
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If I was Bruce I’d go out all guns blazing now. I’d name names. Say who isn’t trying. Point fingers. The players have to be responsible too. He may as well say he is not completely to blame.
If Ashley is trying to save a potential £4m pay out needed to sack Bruce it is short sighted. The club will be worth £100m less in the Championship, and have £60m less TV income next season if they drop.
And this time there’ll be no one of Rafa Benitez’ stature to oversee a rebuild and promotion like five years ago.
It is awful, dreadful, and I genuinely feel for those fans.