Newcastle upon Tyne.—At a ceremony at Darsley Park, Newcastle United’s training centre, Lee Charnley pulled down a curtain revealing the portrait of this month’s winner of the Newcastle United’s Employee of the Month award. For the 159th consecutive time, the winner was Mike Ashley.
“Take that!” Ashley shouted at Box Office Manager Steven Tickle, who pundits had favoured to win the coveted award – which comes with a £15 gift card for Sports Direct. Ashley also thanked Charnley and former employee Joe Kinnear for pushing him to aspire to “new heights in my quest for excellence”.
Ashley started the Employee of the Month award as soon as he became owner in an effort to motivate various officials at Newcastle United, but so far he has been the only one to win it. “What can I say, I am nailing it,” Ashley told his staff as he hung another portrait of himself on the wall.
The race is already on for winning next month’s award.
Before diving in, let’s review the highlight of the season.
Now that the most important part of this article is out of the way, let’s have a look at Steve Bruce’s first season in charge of Newcastle United.
I know this is a subjective topic, so before I give my own opinion, I do acknowledge there are strong sentiments on either side of the aisle. I had asked my Twitter followers for their thoughts on Steve Bruce this season and had plenty of responses. There was everything from ‘really good’ to ‘utterly awful’. I believe both sides made decent arguments for and against Bruce’s performance this season, so just to reiterate, this is just my opinion.
In addition, I think it’s worth discussing the environment at Newcastle United under this current ownership – irrespective of who the manager is. In the last 13 years, Newcastle have had some decent managers and a surfeit of poor ones – but one thing has remained constant throughout, inept ownership.
As Kevin Keegan famously said “Newcastle are a real one-off. I don’t know of a club that has been run as badly or with such disregard for people…” additionally Alan Shearer has said “There is a lot of unrest in Newcastle because the life and soul really has been sucked out of Newcastle United…”. Given the foundation at the club, it almost doesn’t even matter who United have as a manager/head coach at United – if the ownership is faulty, the club can never progress.
It doesn’t suffice to say that the synergies between management and ownership are non-existent; managing Newcastle United is like trying to sail a ship with a massive hole in the hull. Eventually, the bucket you’re armed with won’t manage emptying out all the sea water flooding in. Ultimately, managing this club doesn’t just simply boil down to tactics and substitutions. There is added bureaucratic baggage that comes with this job that has rightfully earned it the status of a ‘poisoned chalice’. So, when reviewing Bruce’s managerial performance, it behooves oneself to keep this in mind, as handing out a verdict without this context is futile.
Newcastle United are still in the Premier League next season. It’s awful that this is the standard for the club, but it is. Many did favour the Magpies to both get relegated this season as well as for Bruce to get the sack – neither happened. Even with the best manager in the world, I highly doubt, with this squad, that Newcastle could finish in the top 8. On the other hand, I believe a really poor manager would have easily gotten the club relegated. Newcastle fans cannot overlook that Bruce did in fact defy the odds set against him from the onset and he should be duly credited for it.
Additionally, Steve Bruce’s man-management skills, his most powerful asset, were on display this season. I know this doesn’t necessarily make him a great manager, but it can be vital in the development of players and team morale. United’s star, Allan Saint-Maximin recently spoke about the amazing impact Bruce has had on him and I believe this boils down to Bruce’s wonderful ability to connect with his players. Bruce is also extremely loyal & forgiving with his team selection, this worked both for and against him this season. A positive example was his persistence with Manquillo, who I believe was one of the more improved players in the squad.
Steve Bruce was extremely slow to make desperately needed changes throughout the course of the season. This could be seen in two main facets. Firstly, was his perseverance with Joelinton. Unlike Manquillo, Big Jo failed to deliver the goods time and time again. Fans were desperately hoping for Newcastle United’s record signing to adapt and start scoring but it just never came to fruition. In all fairness, this was compounded by poor tactics, where he found himself completely isolated up front for most parts of the season. His goal tally ended on a measly 2 goals, and after spending £40m on him, ‘disappointed’ is the mildest superlative one could use in describing the outcome. It was only after the restart did Bruce switch to Dwight Gayle and it duly paid dividends. He ended up with 4 goals and 2 assists from 9 starts which was a much better return than what the Brazilian offered.
Secondly, the tactics and style of play were subpar. Newcastle played some horrendous football this season, it’s hard to look past this. The persistence of setting up with 5 at the back led to some of the worst performances seen in a while; Manchester City and Leicester are two matches that spring to mind. Bruce also demonstrated himself as largely reactive as opposed to proactive in his use of substitutions. What is meant by that, is that he seldom used his subs to change a game, but rather waited for the game to change and then subsequently brought on players.
To his credit, Bruce did eventually (although not entirely) move away from the back 5 to a back 4 and saw an immediate impact. Our best performances of the season were played with this setup.
Steve Bruce summed up this season in one word, “Okay”, and I tend to agree with him. For many who think it’s been terrible, I hear you and there is grounding for your claim. However, I believe that Newcastle finishing 13th and staying up cannot be overlooked given the circumstances. Had I asked you at the start of this season where United would have finished, I am not too sure many would have suggested anything higher than 15th. Yes, the tactics have been poor for the lion’s share of the season and the style has been tedious, but Newcastle are still in the Premier League and have reached their target – one which has been drastically lowered over the past 13 years.
Taking all of this into account, and given the circumstances of the club, Toon Talk gives Steve Bruce a rating of 5.5/10 this season.
The 30 year wait for Liverpool is over, and they have finally won the League. As you can see, I am super happy for them…………….
If, like me, you’ve had enough of their fans social media posts and tawdry celebrations – I thought it suitable to digress from the common dialogue for a minute.
Seeing the phrase ‘the 30 year wait is over’, got me thinking, ‘how long has it been since United last lifted the league trophy’. The answer, my friends, wasn’t very soothing to the mind of a Newcastle United fan. However, I was relieved to find out that the duration of years hasn’t reached triple figures… yet.
So the long and short of it is this, Newcastle last won the League in 1927 which was exactly 93 years ago. 93 years is a long time my friends – it’s basically as long as it took Newcastle United fans to get refunded for their season tickets. Let that sink in for a bit…
My next thought was, what was the world like in 1927? Was Harry Redknapp in management? Which club was Darren Bent at? Did Carl Froch have a crowd of 80 000 at Wembley? I was SHOCKED to find out the reality of what was actually happening back then.
Consequently, and after some research, I drew up a list of 3 pertinent events in the year 1927:
1. The era of Silent Films ended in 1927 with the introduction of the film “The Jazz Singer” – which was the first film to ever record synchronised dialogue. If you’re wondering what watching something in silence is like, please visit the Stadium of Light on any given match day 😉
2. The construction of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, America began. If you are unfamiliar with this sculpture, it is of four significant historical leaders that have been carved into Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills region. I haven’t been myself, but I believe the sculptures are of Sir Bobby Robson, Shola Ameobi, Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer. Please don’t come with your fact checking.
3. After searching the archives, it can be confirmed that even back in 1927, there wasn’t a Mackem to be seen in Milan. Seems like this will never happen… strange.
Winning a League title seems well beyond Newcastle’s wildest dreams at the moment, but here’s to hoping we can win it before we raise our bat for the century. Howay the Lads!
Newcastle United took on Aston Villa at home after a well earned victory at St James’ Park on the weekend against Sheffield United. Going into this game Aston Villa find themselves in 19th place and staring down the barrel of relegation having only 26 points. Newcastle, on the other hand are looking to be clear of relegation this season sitting 13th on 38 points.
The first half was a fairly dull affair. Villa looked slightly better, creating a few more chances with 11 goal attempts to Newcastle’s 5. ASM was by far United’s most threatening player, never shy to attack and take on players.
The second half saw Newcastle come out the blocks a bit better as they started to threaten Villa. Carroll and Gayle were brought on for Joelinton and Ritchie respectively and made an immediate impact. One minute after coming on, Gayle gave Newcastle United the lead after a receiving a stunning pass from Carroll who did immensely well to get control of a loose ball.
Unfortunately for United, Villa drew level from an Elmohamady header. One of Newcastle United’s best players, goalkeeper Martin Dubravka, made a hash of this as it was most definitely saveable. This led to a deadlock result at 1-1, leaving Newcastle one point off the much desired 40 point mark and Aston Villa lingering second last on 29 points.
Martin Dubravka: 5.5/10
Quiet afternoon for the lions-share of the game for Dubravka, until the 83rd minute came. A flick-on header from Elmohamady fell low and Dubravka failed to deal with it, essentially forfeiting 2 points for United. A mistake he’ll want to forget, nonetheless, a key player for Newcastle going forward.
Javier Manquillo: 6.5/10
Solid afternoon for Manquillo. Worked the flank well and put in a shift as always. One or two passing errors as Newcastle looked slightly disjointed at times.
Jamaal Lascelles: 7/10
Skipper had a decent game with only one poor clearance coming to mind. Commanding in the air and will be disappointed that Newcastle aren’t walking away with all 3 points. Picked up a yellow in the 59th minute.
Federico Fernandez: 6.5/10
Looking a formidable CB partner with Lascelles. Some great clearing headers and solid tackling from the Argentinian. Picked up a yellow in the 74th minute.
Danny Rose: 6.5/10
Danny Rose had a better afternoon today. Some great link up play with Almiron, one almost leading to a great opportunity had Miggy passed back to Rose. Hopefully, he will find his feet at United and start delivering performances he is capable of.
Isaac Hayden: 7/10
One of Newcastle United’s best players. A real cornerstone for this team. To the passerby, he may seem like he is not doing much – but this lad puts in the hard graft. Made some crunching tackles today and held the ball up nicely. A bit worried to see him limping off in the 86th minute before a massive Cup quarter against Man City on Sunday.
Jonjo Shelvey: 6/10
Villa made a concerted effort to lock up Shelvey this afternoon. He was tightly marked from the get go and had little influence over the game. Still managed to put in one or two decent passes for United, but overall a quiet afternoon for Jonjo.
Matt Ritchie: 6.5/10
Ritchie, along with ASM, were our most exciting players going forward today. He looks like he is enjoying himself in the left of the midfield. As always, puts in a shift and had one or two lovely crosses today. Ritchie was subbed in the 67th for Gayle.
Allan Saint-Maximin: 7.5/10
Newcastle’s most dangerous player by a country mile. ASM continues to wow football fans with his dazzling runs and his ability to glide past opposing players. A bargain he was for £16m – there is A LOT more to come from this very special player. Had another good afternoon, giving the Villa players plenty to worry about. United will need him at his best for Sunday’s Cup game.
Miguel Almiron: 6/10
Not Miggy’s best afternoon. Looked sloppy at times and missed one or two opportunities to play his teammates who were making runs in and behind the defence. Nonetheless, worked hard and will hopefully continue to improve.
Another goalless afternoon for Joelinton. Holds the ball up well and makes some tidy runs into space, just can’t seem to find the back of the net. Had one good opportunity that was blocked by Mings with some excellent defending.
Substitutes (Must play over 15 minutes to receive a rating)
Carroll (64′) : 8/10
Was fantastic from the get go. Held the ball up lovely and was brilliant in assisting Gayle for the goal. Controlled it nicely and then played a lovely pass through to Gayle, who duly finished it. A possible start for the local lad on Sunday in the Cup quarters?
Gayle (67′): 8/10
Was as energetic as always! Made an immediate impact, scoring 90 seconds after coming on. Collected a fantastic passes from Carroll and then seamlessly buried the ball beyond the keeper into the bottom left hand corner. You could see by his celebration how much that goal meant to him. Does he deserve more game time for United?