"If Newcastle can finish mid-table again, I think Steve Bruce will have done wonderfully." - Robbie Savage, October 2020. Expectations are a funny thing, they change over the course of time and the expectations of Newcastle United supporters have certainly been lowered. I remember watching Kevin Keegan's 'Entertainers' in awe, proudly thinking "This is my team." It wasn't all about seeing Newcastle compete at the top end of the table, I actually looked forward to watching them play. After 'The Entertainers' had sadly been dismantled by Kenny Dalglish, the expectation dwindled. Two successive and underwhelming 13th placed finishes in the league saw the expectation drop further. Despite Newcastle's drop in the Premier League standings, the performances were nowhere near as turgid as they are now. After Dalglish and Ruud Gullit, came a man who made us all believe again, Sir Bobby Robson. With his charm, intelligence and guidance he gradually turned Newcastle into top four contenders again. I had the same feeling with Sir Bobby Robson's teams as I did with Keegan's, feelings of pride and excitement. Though I wasn't fond of either Dalglish or Gullit, there was still something there to love about Newcastle, there was still an identity and a sense that things would get better in time. The problem I'm having with the Newcastle United of today is that it's just not Newcastle United. Over the years we've had managers and players that we've disliked but certainly in my time as a supporter, I've never been as bored or as fed up watching Newcastle play. Even under the likes of Alan Pardew, Graeme Souness and Sam Allardyce you still got to see Newcastle go forward and attack during a game. Kieron Dyer was spot on when he said "I’m bored of watching Newcastle, they bore me. It’s like they’re grinding out results." I remember feeling so excited when my father took me to St. James' Park when I was a bairn. I feel so sorry for the supporters who have only known this Newcastle United. Everything is so slow, laboured and passive with next to no attacking intent. Despite a more offensive line-up against Wolves, it was the same turgid performance. How do you start Murphy, Fraser, Almirón, Saint-Maximin and Wilson and still only muster two shots on goal? The players have their formation but don't have a game plan, 11 players lost on a football pitch. Some supporters have been brainwashed into thinking that a 1-1 draw against Wolves is a step forward, that's how far expectations have fallen on Tyneside.
"But he (Bruce) sets his team up to win football matches and I don't think he gets enough credit for that. I think Rafa Benitez got loads of credit for that. I saw some games where Rafa set his team up, they drew 0-0 and never ever threw a punch during the game. It was boring to watch. So I think they've got short memories, Newcastle fans. They've got to look at what Rafa delivered and what Steve Bruce is delivering now." Tim Sherwood, October 2020. There are so many things wrong with Sherwood's comments it's difficult to know where to start. Bruce has certainly not set Newcastle up to win games (13 of 44), there isn't a clear game plan of how he wants his side to play. This has seen our expectations hit rock bottom, this isn't football, welcome to Bruceball where hopes and dreams go to die.
Some games under Benitez may have been boring to watch but it's a lot worse under Bruce. There's simply no attacking intent. The performance against Wolves made me dose off for a few minutes, I decided to rewind it to see if a miracle had happened and I missed something. I didn't miss anything, in fact Newcastle barely touched the ball in those 5 minutes.
It isn't too much to expect Newcastle to take control of games and at least scare the opposition, especially in one of the most open Premier League seasons to date. Teams are more offensive (or less defensive) this season, which has been proven in the results so far this season with a number of high scoring games. Every team in the Premier League is a more attractive proposition to watch than Newcastle so far this season, that includes the current bottom three of Fulham, Sheffield United and Burnley.
I expect to be grossly underwhelmed by the majority of Newcastle performances this season and beyond, unless some big changes are made. This isn't the Newcastle United I know and it hasn't been for a long time now. I can only hope that one day soon I will see an attacking Newcastle United, a club with ambition, identity and a clear vision. For now though, I will continue to keep my eyes open with matchsticks. I am finding it increasingly difficult to show any enthusiasm towards Newcastle, it used to be fun and exciting to watch those players in the famous black and white shirts. With no plan, ambition or identity it's hard to expect anything from this club.
My expectations could not be lower.