“Judge him after 10 games they” they said.
“The hard work for Steve and his team starts immediately and we will be fully prepared for the challenge of a new Premier League season” Lee Charnley said.
Well we’ve reached 10 games. 10 games that have seen Bruce and his team put together 2 wins, 3 draws, 5 defeats; scored 6 goals, conceded 15 and sit in 17th place with 9 points.
Last weekend’s game was always going to be viewed by many as a benchmark for where Bruce was taking this team; a benchmark of his tactics and his style of play. Bruce leading us out of British Summer Time but hopefully not into the gloom of a northern winter of football discontent.
Managers lay the foundations; set the game plan. Players execute that plan. To ensure it is executed successfully the manager works during the week on the training pitch setting systems up; arranging the plan A, B and C, covering the scenarios that may occur in play. He dictates the pace, the face of the team; His team.
If that is what football management is about then what we witnessed against Wolves was the total antithesis.
Boy, were we crying out for some game management on Sunday. However, what we got was Bruce and his coaching staff providing zero impact from the touchline. There appears to be no system; no game plan, no game management, no adjustments made in-play. Bruce looks lost, devoid of any way to handle this aspect of the game unless it’s calling out of his own players while ignoring his responsibility of his own failings. The fact that at almost every opportunity he wants to talk about his own game numbers over 20 years in management says so much. Only our opponents’ sleepy start brought on possibly by their 2,000 plus mile midweek excursion to Bratislava saved us from a full 90 minutes of being outplayed on the pitch and out thought on the touchline.
As supporters we can handle the disappointment of missed chances, the poor refereeing decisions, the individual errors, the glaring shabbiness of VAR. What we cant handle is lack of any signs of a game plan or any sign of 90 minutes of game management.
What Ashley and Charnley see in Bruce is baffling. I can’t see it and I doubt many others can either. 10 games in and it is obvious to all who want to see, that this team is in trouble. It is shot shy; it lacks fluidity, at times it is ponderous and only the fact that supporters haven’t yet turned on them is saving them from a total drain in confidence. It’s coming, the question is simply when?. What is saving them presently from direct criticism is that fans know who is really to blame and have adopted their own way of showing their displeasure.
Apathy has replaced atmosphere inside St James’ Park on match days. It’s as if those attending are resigned to the inevitable but clinging on by their fingernails in hope, in desperation; that their fears are not being realised; in blind faith that something will turn this juggernaut around for the better. Even the pre match conversation seems to start with “it’s shite isn’t it?”
Ashley has sucked the lifeblood out of the club. The appetite for protest has been replaced with a simple “can’t be arsed anymore” until he finally sells up; be it in 12 weeks, 12 months or 12 years.
There are no flashing signs among the gloom that we now sit under that Bruce and his coaching team can stop the rot through performances on the pitch.
When the lights of the Benitez reign went out, Bruce was Ashley’s 30 watt incandescent replacement. Old fashioned; a relic of yesterday and simply not fit for purpose.
It’s as though nobody wants to break the match day social cycle; the pre and post match social get together that for older supporters has replaced the Friday nights out of the past but with a 90 minute football interlude thrown in. When they were younger it was Friday night pub crawl; meet at 7, drink til 10:30; bus home. Saturday repeat with the match as an interlude. Non-match days they still met up in the pubs in town; the only issue being that the wives or girlfriends usually tagged along, so they had to temper their language and keep football talk to a minimum!
For supporters of the (80’s) Keegan generation, match day has in many instances become the only social connection with the past that they can cling on to. The Friday night out start of the weekend doesn’t happen now. The town has changed; priorities have shifted.
Perhaps those supporters that still attend cling to match days out of habit and collective loyalty to each other. In their hearts they are and will remain Newcastle United black n white though and through. But in their heads some now see their club dying before their eyes. They still come to town simply for the meet up. But like the shipyards and the factories that once flourished along a once proud river the decline of their football club seems so familiar; so hard to stomach but with a dispiriting inevitability about it.
Some of the younger generation have taken a different stance and walked away on masse. The singing section is no more; the wonderful flag displays in the Gallowgate are now a past and ever more distant memory; Loyal supporters who give so much but are no longer willing to be played by Ashley. It hurts them just as much; there are no degrees of loyalty; no rights and wrongs. The young guard seems to be standing firm. Absence is temporary but their temporary is not time bonded.
What all generations of supporters agree on is that the shine has gone; rubbed away by the shallow, lifeless, hollow shadow of Mike Ashley.
The fear now for our football club is that this football winter of discontent becomes a nuclear winter; an Ashley winter; a winter where the sun barely rises; flickers but never shines; a winter of perpetual football darkness and gloom; a winter that under Ashley will show no sign of ending.
Surely there is someone out there who can bring us back into the light!