Steve Bruce feels “insulted” by a seemingly widespread perception that he lacks tactical intelligence and he suspects “no one in the country” is under similarly intense, and hostile, scrutiny.
Newcastle United are a traditionally volatile club but, even by their turbulent standards supporter reaction to two defeats – 1-0 at home against Arsenal and 3-1 at Norwich – in the season’s opening Premier League games has felt a little hysterical.
A comment from the defender Paul Dummett saying that “from the start in the warm-up it wasn’t right” at Carrow Road has been subjected to forensic analysis, offending Rafael Benítez’s successor in the process.
“I think what insults me more than anything is the insinuation that we can’t do a warm-up and tactics,” Bruce said as he prepared his squad for Sunday’s trip to Tottenham. “All we’ve worked on is team shape since I’ve been here. All we’ve done, all week and every week, is formation, team shape.
“The insinuation that we’re not capable of doing that – that criticism hurts, because it’s untrue. We can all take criticism as long as it’s constructive. When it’s complete lies, that’s when it’s disappointing.”
Dummett clarified his comments to explain that he was criticising the team’s collective attitude rather than Bruce’s coaching staff, led by the experienced and highly rated Steve Agnew.
“It’s not a concern,” Newcastle’s manager said. “Are we really going to analyse a warm-up? If we are, then we’re in serious trouble. We can all warm up badly, can’t we. I was more concerned about the game. I analyse performances on the pitch rather than any warm-up. The lads [his coaches] Steve Agnew and Steve Clemence have been taking warm-ups for 20 years. If we can’t take a warm-up properly then this just shows what we’re up against.”
Although outwardly good-humoured and polite, Bruce was clearly intensely annoyed by comments from the former bit-part Newcastle striker Michael Chopra, who said players “did not know their jobs”.
In another context he would almost certainly have laughed off that jibe but Bruce has clearly been stung by a barrage of social media abuse. “No one else in the country would be under the spotlight that I feel as if I’m under at the minute. I have to accept it. I could have said ‘no’ [to the job]. I’m prepared to roll up my sleeves and I hope the team respond the right way. I’m sure they will.
“I love the fight of it. But when it gets unfair, that’s when I get disappointed. I don’t think we’re in crisis. We didn’t play well enough at Norwich. We have to be better at Spurs – and we will be.”
Source: The Guardian