• Analysis

Steve Bruce cements his reputation at Newcastle

Newcastle United Steve Bruce Rafael Benitez
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Despite 14th place in English Premier League points table, the Corbridge born tactician has taken the Tyneside to four points of Europa League places.

Steve Bruce was linked with the Newcastle hot seat but he was not the prime candidate to take over from Rafael Benitez. The departed Spanish manager had left big shoes to fill after returning the Toons to top-half contention. And Bruce was an unlikely persona to carry the torch.

Roberto Martinez might have been a good fit. So would have been Patrick Viera. Even Steven Gerrard was a more likely candidate than Bruce. But it was the former Manchester United center-back who got the nod from owner Mike Ashley.

The Magpies had not spent much under Benitez but money was made available to the new manager. Bruce dived into it and has done well, if not spectacular in the transfer market.

He had to replace Ayoze Perez and Joselu upfront. The wing-back positions on both fronts required reinforcements. Benitez had shaped the dressing room and it needed direction.

And it is the direction from the 58 year old has given the squad just that. The club are four points adrift off Europa League position and have a good chance of realizing it.

With a net expenditure of 33 million Euros, the club were not meant to challenge for the title. The Toon Army would settle for a mid table position, if it was achieved in a proper manner.

Youth academy graduate have been incorporated into the first team. Money was spent to revitalize an aging squad. And the team needs to give a good account of itself. Results against big teams would always be a plus.

St James’ Park is a fortress

And this is what Bruce has managed at St James’ Park. Following their season opener home loss to Arsenal, Newcastle United have not looked back. They are unbeaten at home in a run that now stretches to six games.

While the Gunners have sacked Unai Emery, Bruce has marched on. His Magpies are entertaining and resolute. And they fight back.

Tottenham learned it the hard way as they were shocked in London. So did Manchester United when they traveled Tyneside.

And against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City Bruce’s charges have delivered the biggest punch. The reigning champions were held to an exciting 2-2 draw, putting an end to their third successive league title aspirations.

Steve Bruce managed to match wits with the best manager of modern era and came with his integrity intact.

Not many can claim this accolade. Frank Lampard would attest to it. So would Jose Mourinho.

In his short stay at St James’ Park, Steve Bruce has done a good account of himself.