Newcastle United’s Crossroads: Act now or lose everything

As you may or may not have noticed, writing about United hasn’t exactly been at the forefront of my mind for quite a while. It’s not really something I enjoy doing anymore to be perfectly honest. Just thinking about the club brings me immense suffering and displeasure. Alas, I have decided to dust off the cobwebs and write a short thought-piece about the where the club is, and the decisions that need to be made in the wake of yet another frankly abysmal transfer window.

Transfers? What Transfers?

As you will no doubt be aware, the transfer window slammed shut a couple of days back and United did sweet mother f**k all. Steve Bruce and his merry band did manage to reunite the fans with Joe Willock, who was here on loan at the back end of last season. Willock made his presence felt on and off the field as both his performances and his personality helping him connect with the ‘Maggies’ fan base.

To be perfectly honest, bringing back Joe Willock was the very bare minimum requirement for United this summer. The team lacks quality, it lacks depth and it lacks a decent manager to push it forward. Joe Willock brought a lot to it last season when he arrived in January, not least a whole bunch of goals. So bringing him back was absolutely imperative and, credit where it’s due, the club did that. £25million was the fee paid…

Newcastle United - Newcastle United sign Joe Willock on a permanent deal
Joe Willock – the man who burst onto the scene at United last season has a lot of pressure on his shoulders this term

Now, I remember reading way back in May that Bruce was to be given a measly £10million budget this summer. That fee makes you think doesn’t it? Was that just an organised leak to the media so that, when they spent more than that, the club could say: “Hey look, we spent way more than our budget as a favour to you. You should be thankful…” Well, it’d hardly be a shock if that were the truth now would it?

HOWEVER, the fact of the matter is, United have released/sold a number of players this season and, according to this article, have slashed more than £200k per week from the wage bill by getting rid of players like Henri Saivet, Andy Carroll and Yoshinori Muto. Surely, that should have freed up plenty of room for a signing or two – even on loan – but nooooo….

United refused the chance to sign players such as Hamza Choudhury of Leicester City, whom I wouldn’t even have been that bothered about us signing anyway, because the club flat out refused to pay the loan fee. What even is that? There was a time, not too long ago, wherein we were paying world record fees for the best players in the world. Now we can’t even afford a loan fee? Pull the other one.

Steve Bruce’s Decision

Now, if you were Steve Bruce, surely you would be absolutely raging at what’s happened in the window. He was clearly told at the beginning of the window that we would be doing business, and so he’s relayed to us fans that there’d be a number of signings. “Four or five” I believe was the original number he stated at the beginning of the summer.

Now, here we are on September 2nd, and not only have we failed to strengthen our squad, but we’re arguably weaker than we were three months ago. Yes, Joe Willock has arrived, but we’d be naive to expect him to continue the form he showed at the back end of last season for any amount of time. We’re now a Callum Wilson/Allan Saint-Maximin injury away from absolute crisis.

That makes Steve Bruce, who made those bold claims, look an absolute mug. Now, if I were him, I would be raging with Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley. They have left him out to dry in the most brutal of manners. As much as I’m not his biggest fan and I would actually prefer if he was to leave, Bruce will take the majority of the flack for shortcomings that are on Lee Charnley and Mike Ashley’s heads.

Bruce is the figurehead. He’s the one that has to face the media. He’s the one who has to stand in that technical area and face the wrath of 50k (more like 40k at the moment…) Geordies screaming for his head. The club have let him down in a major way and if I were him, I’d seriously be considering telling them where they can shove their job.

Mind you, what isn’t helping the morale of the United fans is the utterly ridiculous insistence on playing a formation that forces a number of our more influential players to play out of position. Don’t get me wrong, Steve Bruce is not getting away without criticism here because frankly, the performances in these first three games have been shocking.

Watch highlights of United v Southampton from last weekend

We will be relegated if something doesn’t change on the pitch soon. Miguel Almiron, Matt Ritchie, Allan Saint-Maximin to name but three are all stuck playing in positions wherein they simply cannot impact the game in the way they normally would. Bruce seems to go into matches scared to lose rather than trying to win – and it shows in the way we’ve been playing.

First half against West Ham on the opening day I thought we were excellent in attack. We looked like we wanted to go out there and beat them. We looked like we wanted to score goals, and we were successful. Then we went in at the break a goal to the good and I can only assume Bruce asked them to defend it, because the second half performance was pathetic. Come to think about it, every half of football we’ve played since then has been poor.

What needs to happen?

Well the ideal thing would be that the Premier League re-evaluate their position, allow the takeover to go through and the new owners replace Steve Bruce with a top quality manager and spend some money in January. That’s obviously not going to happen.

Instead, Steve Bruce needs to grow himself a set of balls and tell Mike Ashley where he can shove that United managerial position. Failing that, Mike Ashley needs to realise that the longer he goes without sacking Bruce, the more chance we have of going down this season. If that happens, the money he’s going to get for selling the club will half… if he’s lucky.

Here’s what I actually see happening:

United continue on the way we’re going for the next few months and, in January, we’ll be in the relegation zone with 20 points to our name if we’re lucky. The club will realise that if they don’t take action, we’ll be relegated. They’ll bring in a few players on loan to bolster the squad, we’ll probably do a bit better second half of the campaign and thanks to other teams being worse, we’ll survive and Steve Bruce will be lauded in the media as some sort of genius.

You want to know how I know that? It’s exactly what’s happened in the last two campaigns and, make no mistake, this club is intent on staying right where it is. There’s no ideas of moving on up the table. There’s no ambition to get the club into a position where they can challenge for Europe. There’s no designs to revamp the training centre or bring in any top new players. The club will stay where it is right now until it’s either bought, or we get relegated – which, if it doesn’t happen this year, will happen next season.

Strap in folks, it’s going to get messy.

Thanks for reading through my rant. If you liked it, you may even like me a little bit. Follow me on Twitter for more of my NUFC based opinions and thoughts.

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