It isn't surprising to anyone who has been watching Newcastle United over the last eighteen months or so that the club are being dragged into a relegation battle. Rumour (started by me, right now) has it that Steve Bruce's favourite film is Groundhog Day - it is the same story repeating itself at the majority of clubs that Bruce has managed.
When you employ a manager who has one of the lowest win percentages in the league, it is inevitable for a team to enter free fall sooner or later. Newcastle are without a win in six games in all competitions and the chance (or get out of jail free) card is expiring. Newcastle were hit badly by COVID-19, which resulted in a number of players being unavailable, but with players returning this cannot be used as an excuse any longer.
Those throwing the lazy deluded rhetoric around, only need to look at the reaction of Newcastle supporters after a 0-0 draw against Liverpool. To anyone on the outside, it would have perhaps looked like a lucky point but the reality is that 27% possession and two shots on target was an improvement. We cheer getting into the final third as though we have scored a goal, such is the sheer shock of it all.
There is no excitement in watching Newcastle, which is made worse as now - more than ever - supporters need something to lift their spirits. All Newcastle do is add to the stresses and strains of everyday life. Lockdown after lockdown, tier 2, 3, 4 and back again, watching Newcastle should be a welcome distraction. Instead, we're left with being impressed by the way the opposition play, even Brighton and Fulham for god’s sake!
At least we can all cling on to the fact that there might just be three teams worse than us - what a time to be alive! Only Sheffield United, Fulham, West Brom and Burnley have scored fewer goals than Newcastle this season. So much for the front foot football eh, Steve?
Callum Wilson was a great buy for Newcastle in the summer, though relying on one man to grab all the goals is asking for trouble. Wilson is in no danger of having any competition for being the top goal scorer at the club, his tally of 8 in the league is far and above his teammates. Jeff Hendrick is a distant second on 2 goals in the league so far this season.
Remember the days of looking forward to Kevin Keegan, Sir Bobby Robson, Rafael Benitez and even Chris Hughton in their respective press conferences? It seems like a lifetime ago. Now we play Brucey Bingo, "Look they're a tough, tough side" "We'll have to be at our best" and "We are where we are" are all firm favourites in Bruce's dictionary. You can't imagine pubs across the city falling silent as his face appeared on the small mounted televisions just after full-time, can you?
Perhaps, Bruce is the only one happy about the current restrictions - There is no Geordie faithful to tell him just how bad things are. If you wanted to get a feel of the mood, just look on the NUFC hashtag. Full of infighting and constant complaints at just how awful the previous performance was. Unlike his predecessor, Bruce has helped divide and disillusion a fan base which had finally united (behind Rafa) after years of hopelessness under incredibly average managers.
We return to familiar waters, excuse after excuse "We are where we are" "We tried but couldn't get it over the line" instead of "We are only interested in bringing players to Newcastle who want to work hard for the club and the team, not players who want to be at another club maybe next year or the year after." Or "I'm not going to look beyond the semi-final - but I would love to lead Newcastle out at the final" and "We've got the best fans in the country and it's those people who are going to turn this club around with a little bit of help from all of us."
The problems stretch further than Bruce and have done for over a decade. Bruce is just another to add to Alan Pardew, Steve McClaren and John Carver who cannot unite this fan base and take the club forward. It takes a special type of character to do that but unfortunately the days of Sir Bobby Robson and Kevin Keegan beaming with pride at managing this football club are long gone.
A third relegation will be crippling for Newcastle, as the loss of income added to Ashley's disinterest suggests it will be difficult for the club to bounce straight back up. Bruce has proven over the course of his managerial career that he doesn't have what it takes to turn things around when they start to turn sour. Signs are suggesting that the club will continue its descent into the Premier League's abyss unless a change is made sooner than later.