Given the difference in managerial success between the two, it’s hard to argue that Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce is anywhere near the level of previous incumbent of the St. James’ Park hot-seat, Rafa Benitez. A Champions League winner to have lifted major trophies in Spain, Italy and England, the Spaniard’s departure sparked protests in the summer and Bruce himself admitted he’d be a hard act to follow.
Now, the point of this article is not to defend Mike Ashley’s decision to appoint Bruce. While it would have been hard for anyone to replace Benitez, given his status, moving for the 59-year-old as a direct successor did smack of a lack of ambition. In fact, it still does, in a grander sense as to where the club might go in the future. However, the reaction of Joelinton upon scoring his first goal on home soil for the Toon Army against Rochdale does perhaps tell us what the former Manchester United captain brings to the table.
After bagging in the FA Cup, the Brazilian marksman could have been forgiven in indulging in his moment. After all, this is a man to have lost a Twitter poll asking whether sections of ‘supporters’ online would rather him or a slice of bread up front following his miserable performance against the Dale in the first leg. Still, rather than do that, the 23-year-old opted to run straight to Bruce and his coaching team to celebrate, giving an indication as to the feeling behind the scenes at the club.
He’s not the first to either. Back in the summer, Jonjo Shelvey – who had lost his place under Benitez last season – spoke of how he was enjoying life under the regime and has since gone onto prove himself as a pivotal figure. The club’s top scorer, there’s even talk of a new deal for the former Liverpool man and his midfield partner – Isaac Hayden – recently spoke of his willingness to operate wherever is asked of him despite making it public that he wanted to leave a number of months ago. Another goalscorer, Matty Longstaff even thanked his boss after his dramatic strike on his debut against the Red Devils back in October.
Again, this isn’t to compare as something as unquantifiable as team spirit between the two managers. Indeed, there isn’t much indication as to whether the Magpies had a particularly bad one under Benitez but, when looking for what exactly Bruce brings as a boss, it does appear to be a motif during the first few months of reign.
Going forward, there may be dark days under Bruce, such as the ones away at Leicester City, Norwich and Rochdale already this season. Going further still, he may not be in the class of a manger such as Benitez to build a side capable of challenging for trophies or the top six but, right now, he deserves credit for helping a fairly new-look side to have lost their two top scorers and manager through what was always going to be a difficult campaign given the events of the summer.
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