Eddie Howe’s stock is at an all-time high after his Newcastle side climbed to 4th following a victory over Tottenham Hotspur.
Superstars Harry Kane and Heung-min Son were noticeably quiet during the game, and perhaps Newcastle’s victory was as much due to Spurs’ poor performance than their own good deeds. Kane bagged his 10th goal of the season, however his usual attacking prowess seemed to be missing in action.
Nevertheless, the Magpies are enjoying their best start to a season in 10 years and look to be a solid option for the coveted European spots. Just one defeat, away at Anfield, blotches Howe’s record in 2022/23 so far, whilst Paraguayan forward Miguel Almiron is showing critic Jack Grealish how it’s done.
There is an obvious rudder behind Newcastle’s success, and we all know the complicated situation behind their new owners, but I believe there’s another influence behind the emergence of Newcastle United - Steve Bruce.
Though he was cruelly hounded out of St James’ Park last year, the building blocks set by Bruce are still highly visible. The defensive solidity is something he worked on tirelessly. The signing of Callum Wilson was a stroke of genius. The chaotic Allan Saint-Maximin started terrifying Premier League defences under Bruce’s watch, whilst Joelinton was getting a taste of English football.
Bruce’s tactical nous was on full display during his two-and-a-half year reign, guiding his boyhood club to respective 13th and 12th-placed finishes. Unable to spend a fraction of the money Howe has, Bruce was forced to resort to old-fashioned principles to grind out victory.
The 61-year-old built the defensive wall that Howe inherited. Now the best back-four in the league, I doubt Newcastle’s imperviousness would be possible had it not been for the under-appreciated Bruce.
Alas, Steve Bruce was not young or trendy enough for his club’s new owners and his iconic reign at St James’ Park was cut tragically short. A bonafide managerial martyr, Bruce left Newcastle without a ‘thank-you’ note or any fanfare, and had to instead settle for an £8 million payout.
Eddie Howe certainly deserves credit for his sensational turnaround of Newcastle United, but let’s not forget that Bruce walked so his successor could run. If Bruce hadn’t kept the club in the Premier League, then perhaps the mega-wealthy new owners wouldn’t have purchased the club.
If, in ten years’ time, there is no statue of Steve Bruce outside St James’ Park, then a great disservice has been done to a true Tyneside icon.
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