Steve Bruce’s announcement as Newcastle boss last summer was greeted with all the enthusiasm of Dominic Cummings welcoming two weeks in the house and an indoor eye test.
As one of football’s more likeable characters, the (majority of) anger wasn’t so much at Bruce himself, but more those who brought him in.
He grew up only a goal-kick from where I’m sat writing this, in Newcastle’s east end, so no one would expect him to turn down the opportunity. But, because of Sunderland’s mention on his CV and a questionable Premier League win ratio, many wished he had.
Mike Ashley paying more to get him out of his contract at Sheffield Wednesday than he has on the majority of incoming transfers didn’t help, mind. Or that he was replacing Rafa Benitez, for that matter.
Despite all that, though, there were those who wanted to be proved wrong. I was certainly one of them. Obviously, there were questions over his managerial nous, but there was also some logic in it.
Up here, they want recruits that get Newcastle and what it means to represent in black and white. With Bruce, they found exactly that; he was brought up with it, only five dings of the Metro bell from St. James’ Park, and admits to crawling under the stadium turnstiles to watch the Toon as a kid.
Now that NUFC’s place in the Prem has been confirmed for another year, there’s a chance to take a breather and look back. Just shy of a year ago, many had us odds-on to go down, but the reality is much rosier.
Not even two weeks ago, United were gearing up for an FA Cup quarter-final with Man City – the game was a bit naff, granted, and we didn’t look a team worthy of the quarters, yet we were and we got there.
Within two games of that, top-flight safety’s in the bag and we’re two wins behind a Europa League spot – you’d be mad to not give Bruce credit for that.
This season’s success was always going to be relative, if there was any at all; avoiding relegation was the primary objective and anything beyond that would be a bonus.
That newfound optimism could yet come down like it was on the receiving end of Isaac Hayden’s studs, with growing injuries and a trip to Man City tomorrow night, but it’s far better than the prospect of a Tuesday night in Preston next season.
There aren’t enough hours in the day, or bottles of Czech lager at hand to get into the never-ending takeover talk – until there’s an un-Photoshopped shot of a new owner holding a Toon scarf in front of a Sports Direct-less stand at SJP, it’s best to swerve.
But if it happens, Steve Bruce deserves a crack at the job under a new regime. To do what he’s done, in such an initially toxic setting and with a team that’s largely someone else’s, is a cup-winning Dubravka hat-trick short of a miracle on Tyneside.
If by any chance this article reaches the man himself, I’d like to buy him a socially distanced pint at the Wallsend Buffs. He’ll know where it is.
About the Author
Like Jonjo Shelvey being one of the Prem’s best crossbar challengers when he wants to and having a suspicion that one day Jose Mourinho will manage there.
If he’s not driving, eating or watching footy, he’s doing a few of those at the same time.
You can follow Danny on Twitter at @dannmclean
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