In fairness to Steve Bruce, he could be forgiven for not enjoying his first season in the Newcastle hotseat. Few managers have to deal with fan boycotts, colossal injury crisis’, owners giving away 10,000 free half-season tickets and a prospective petrostate takeover throughout their careers, but that has been one season on Tyneside.
Despite all the unrest both on and off of the pitch, Bruce guided his boyhood club to a 13th place finish in the table and Newcastle had navigated themselves clear of the threat of relegation with six Premier League matches remaining. On the one hand, the achievement is quite commendable, but considering the Magpies’ reasonably recent history, it is equally disheartening.
Nevertheless, when reflecting upon his first term in charge, Bruce remained positive and enthused for another campaign at St James’ Park.
What did he say?
Speaking to the Chronicle, Bruce said: “Well, I’ve tried to enjoy it, and of course in a long, hard season like it’s been, there are going to be a few ups and a few downs and what you try to do with experience is just to try to stay in the middle.”
“But I’ve been determined to do one thing, to come and enjoy it. It would have been far easier for me to say, ‘Oh no, I don’t fancy that because that’s too difficult a job, I might get a bit of stick there’,” added the Newcastle United boss.
Staying in the middle
Newcastle have made a habit of finishing mid-table since returning to the Premier League. The Magpies have ended the campaign either 10th or 13th in all three of the seasons post winning the Championship in 2016/17. Bruce’s aim for next term will likely be to aim to break back into the top ten once more, but it will be a tough ask given the Magpies finished ten points behind Burnley in tenth last season.
Overseeing the squad at St James’ Park is an incredibly difficult job as Bruce eluded too and with the takeover still rumbling on while Mike Ashley plans for next season, it could only get tougher. The current owner has reportedly slashed the transfer budget to £35m plus any player sales, which will make it a challenge for Bruce to bring in the four or five players he has suggested he wants.
Overall Bruce’s first season in charge has been steady rather than sensational, but given some predicted he would finish bottom of the Premier League, he has at least proven the doubters wrong and will aim to do so again next term.