Premier League A-Z: What next for Bruce and Newcastle?

Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce during the Premier League match at Craven Cottage, London. Pict

Steve Bruce has been given a rough ride as manager at Newcastle. - Credit: PA

Newcastle United start the season with exactly the same aim as Norwich – to remain a Premier League side still by this time next year. Mark Armstrong reports 

The manager 

Steve Bruce isn’t a popular Newcastle manager. 

He is seen by many as owner Mike Ashley attempt to man the shop and keep everything ticking along in the Premier League whilst he tries to flog their club to the highest bidder. He also isn’t Rafa Benitez – a manager Newcastle fans took to their hearts. 

From an outsider’s perspective it seems rather harsh on the former Norwich City defender but then again people outside of Norfolk thought it was harsh when City sacked Chris Hughton... 

But the bottom line is that Bruce did exactly what his paymasters wanted last season. He kept them well clear of relegation as the Magpies finished 19 points clear of the bottom three in the end. 

After a turgid first half to the season, Bruce oversaw a marked improvement in playing style in the remainder of the campaign. 

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It remains to be seen what kind of reception Bruce is afforded when fans return but as ever, much will be determined on results and if they can see signs of progress and part of that comes down to Ashley and what investment he is willing to continue putting in. 

How’s the squad looking? 

There’s talent in the Magpies squad and the acquisition of Calum Wilson from Bournemouth last summer proved shrewd. The striker went on to score 12 goals in 26 games despite often being fed on scraps from those around him. 

There’s a general feeling of over-reliance on the former England international and crowd favourite Allan Saint-Maximin and Bruce would like to bring in a young centre forward capable of offering an outlet up front and take some of the burden of expectation off Joelinton. 

A centre half is also on their wanted list. Celtic’s Kristoffer Ajer has been linked although it is understood Norwich are closer to landing the Norwegian than anyone. The Glasgow giants will have to lower their £15m asking price if that deal is to come off though. 

The one piece of business many fans would like to see come off is the permanent acquisition of Joe Willock after the Arsenal youngster made such an impression on loan at St James Park. Seven goals in seven matches appeared to suddenly alert the Gunners they might just have a player on their hands and suddenly an asking price of £20-30m was put on his head. 

Newcastle, under Ashley, won’t commit to that sort of outlay but were that price to come down a little then it could bring the Magpies back into play. 

Alternatively, Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta might just think he’s had the attacking thrust his side so desperately lacked last season under his nose all along. 

Last meeting with City... 

Saturday February 1: Newcastle United 0 Norwich City 0 

Not one that will live long in the memory for either side. 

The Canaries earned a point but were left frustrated after spurning several chances to take all three points. 

Teemu Pukki was the guiltiest party after blazing over following a counter attack whilst Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka foiled the Finn. 

Norwich started the game six points adrift of safety and ended it by increasing the margin to seven. An opportunity missed in more ways than one. 

Did you know? 

Former Newcastle and Norwich defender Sebastien Bassong played for Isthmian Premier League side Haringey Borough last season. 

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