Steve Bruce deserves more praise for his solid if unspectacular Newcastle tenure – Robbie Savage

Steve Bruce would never send his team out to sit back – and Newcastle United will never be a boring club.

Yet the stats so far this season suggest Bruce’s team have been dull to watch, which does not fit the attacking flair of Allan Saint-Maximin, Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Jonjo Shelvey’s passing range at their disposal.

Whether you think they are boring of not, any side with that kind of firepower should be entertainers, and I can’t quite get my head round Newcastle.

If you want to have a big club mentality, you have to play with a big club mentality – yet their opponents have had more of the ball in every league game so far.

Win, lose or draw, Newcastle have conceded more territory every week: West Ham had 58 per cent possession, Brighton (53%), Tottenham (66%), Burnley (52%), Manchester United (64%), Wolves, Everton and Southampton (63% each).

Bruce has steered the Magpies to 13th in the table after eight games

In only one game – against Burnley – have they had more shots.

In my experience of playing for Bruce, when he was my manager at Birmingham City, he never told us to sit tight, even if we were playing one of the big guns, and try to pick their pockets.

He always told us to compete, to express ourselves and take the game to our opponents, whoever they were.

Newcastle fans calling Six-0-Six tell me and Chris Sutton that pundits will never understand their club, and maybe they are right.

Maybe I will never quite understand the passion that makes such a big and loyal fan base travel hundreds of miles every other week, outside lockdown, to follow their team.

Saint-Maximin starred in the 3-1 win over Burnley – the one game in which Newcastle out-shot their opposition

Ever since I struck a bet with cab driver on Tyneside that Newcastle would not finish in the top four in 2011-12 under Alan Pardew – I was lucky, they finished fifth, or I would have been obliged to buy his taxi to honour the bet – I have tried to understand Geordie fans.

During the international break, I have been trying to educate myself by reading the local paper website and forums to try and get inside the fans’ heads.

What do they want from their club, and what can they realistically expect?

Bruce has been getting pelters from some supporters, yet Rafa Benitez – a fantastic manager who has won the Champions League at Liverpool – is revered.

Under Benitez, I can remember Newcastle games against the big six where they had only 20 per cent possession, but I don’t remember him being widely criticised or accused of negativity.

Benitez is revered on Tyneside one season on from his departure

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The reality is that, last season, Bruce collected only one point fewer than Benitez’s best season in charge of Newcastle in the Premier League.

The reality is that it’s 50 years since Newcastle won a major trophy (the Fairs Cup in 1969), it’s 65 years since they won the FA Cup and 93 years since they won the title.

Yes, they are a big club because they have a wonderful support in a one-club city where the stadium rises like a citadel on the horizon as you cross the Tyne.

But on the pitch, Leicester City are currently a bigger club than Newcastle because they were champions four years ago and they are back in Europe this season.

And Leicester’s net transfer spend this season – just £9.2million – is only a fraction of Newcastle’s £34.6million.

Bruce’s side sit above 15th-place Leeds, yet Bielsa is routinely lauded

Should Newcastle fans be content with Steve Bruce’s tenure so far? Have your say here.

Although the Geordie faithful don’t expect their club to be a superpower like Liverpool or Manchester City, they must look at the recruitment policy and stylish football of Wolves, Leicester or even Southampton with envy.

Kevin Keegan brought fantasy football to St James’ Park and I believe the fans want to see a return to the days of Shearer, Ferdinand, Ginola and Lee’s verve and spirit.

After a weekend where four different teams went top of the Premier League, if only for a few hours, I know Newcastle fans would love it if one of those clubs was theirs.

I know the Toon Army dreams of a pilgrimage to Wembley in one of the cups.

And above all, I know they want a team that gives them hope – hope of brighter days ahead after the awfulness of this pandemic and lockdown.

Yes, I would like to see Bruce’s team play with more adventure this season.

But Newcastle United have been relegated twice in the last 11 years. Surely they would prefer Bruce’s know-how to going down again?

Right now, Newcastle are above Leeds United in the Premier League table, yet everyone raves about Marcelo Bielsa’s team being easy on the eye.

Leeds have just lost 4-1 in back-to-back games, but nobody accuses them of being boring.

If you asked me now whether Leeds or Newcastle were more likely to go down (and I don’t think either of them will be relegated), I would say Leeds.

The reality is Newcastle are not going to go down under Bruce – yet teams who finish below them in the table could get more praise. It’s a strange old world.

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Source: All Football

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