Bruce’s Benitez comparison proving some fans wrong
Steve Bruce was named Newcastle manager last summer, following in the footsteps of the much-loved Rafa Benitez, and he clearly had a big job on his hands.
The St James’ Park faithful made it abundantly clear they wanted Benitez to stay but the Spaniard decided he’d had enough of the false promises and failed takeovers delivered by the detested Mike Ashley regime and he walked away at the end of his contract at the end of the season.
The former Liverpool, Inter and Real Madrid coach clearly did well in the north east and he bought into the fans’ passion and clicked with the Geordies, who recognised he was working with his hands behind his back. Getting them into the top half after securing promotion was a fine achievement but last season he could only manage 13th.
So, enter Bruce, whose appointment was met with opposition despite the fact he’s a local boy from Corbridge and was an experienced Premier League boss. It wasn’t supposed to go as well as it has and, when looking at the two manager’s records closely, there’s actually not too much to choose between them.
Taking this season so far (29 games) and looking at the first 29 of last term under Benitez and Bruce actually has gathered four more points with 35. The two records are strikingly similar, with nine wins for Bruce (compared to Benitez’s eight), Bruce has eight draws (Benitez seven) and Bruce has lost two fewer – 12 as opposed to 14. They’ve even scored virtually the same amount of goals over the period analysed – Bruce 25, Benitez 26 – and it’s only in conceding goals where Benitez has an identifiable better record (36 compared to 41).
It all suggests Benitez may have been given the benefit of the doubt last year when things did not kick on as everyone would have hoped, while Bruce may have been given a raw deal by some as he’s actually doing a decent job.
There have been some outstanding results this season, a 1-0 win at Tottenham, a memorable home success over Manchester United, and they’ve also seen off Chelsea at St James’ Park and won at Sheffield United, who are enjoying a fantastic season.
Bruce’s detractors will point out the former Birmingham, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday manager has had more money to spend, lavishing £40million on Joelinton, who has seriously flopped with just one league goal so far, but other big signings, like Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, have done well.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) March 18, 2020
Newcastle now look on course for at least matching last season’s 13th-place finish but a push for the top 10 remains possible and a relegation scrap looks to also have been averted for another year.
Bruce is obviously not everyone’s cup of tea and he’s still viewed by plenty of fans as someone more suited to getting teams up rather than progressing with them in the top flight.
But he speaks well, is a better man-manager than people realise and is a passionate Newcastle fan. Those qualities could take him and the Toon further than many anticipated.
And, maybe by the time the season does eventually end, some fans will have to grudgingly admit Bruce is quietly doing a very good job in ongoing trying circumstances.