You can perhaps understand why many Newcastle United fans turned their nose up when Steve Bruce was appointed as the successor to Rafa Benítez at St. James’ Park. After all, to go from a Champions League winning manager to a comparative journeyman is, on paper, a bit of a step down. But with the season drawing to a close, many Newcastle fans have been made to eat their humble pie, with the team sitting pretty in 12th place at the time of writing.
Many Magpies fans undoubtedly feared the worst at the beginning of the season. Newcastle supporters have been made to endure two relegations to the Championship in the last 10 years or so, and the prospect of dropping down yet again was a grim one. But Bruce has slowly made his presence felt, and has got the best out of Newcastle’s perhaps limited playing squad.
Miguel Almirón, although signed by Benítez, has flourished under Bruce this season. He gave Newcastle plenty of energy last season after arriving in January, but this season under Bruce he has added goals to his game, and become a real menace for opposition defenders.
Another major success story for Newcastle has been Allan Saint-Maximin, who has lit up the Premier League after arriving from Nice in the summer transfer window. Saint-Maximin’s direct style and ability to take players on are rare qualities in football these days, and Newcastle fans have taken to him as a cult hero already, in part due to his amusing twitter presence.
Bruce has done well to unite a squad which was no doubt left reeling after the departure of Benítez, who was immensely popular among Newcastle players, staff and supporters alike. Although the start of the season was somewhat shaky, with the Magpies flirting with the bottom three, Bruce has steadied the ship and now has Newcastle displaying some of the best football they’ve played in years.
Since the season resumed after its coronavirus-enforced hiatus, Newcastle have been in good form, picking up eight points from five games, their only defeat coming against Manchester City. This has allowed Bruce to breathe a little easier, casting away the lingering threat of the drop, with Newcastle now safe and clear of being dragged into the debate around the odds on English Premier League relegation.
Eye on Europe
Now the goal is to finish as high up the table as possible, and the team are still technically in with a chance of qualifying for European football. But there is a sense that supporters will be pleased that they can just enjoy the rest of the season without fear of relegation.
The potential takeover deal for the club is currently up in the air, but with on-field performances looking up, there are reasons to be cheerful on Tyneside. For Bruce, he can take immense satisfaction from the fact that he has excelled in a job that many felt was beyond his capabilities. It’s fair to say that his stock had fallen somewhat in recent seasons, but this campaign has proved that he still has the attributes to manage at Premier League level.