Steve Bruce faces fan fury as Newcastle form collapses in spiral of cluelessness

Call it mass hysteria if you like, but Newcastle United are a team getting worse by the month.

Call it signs of progress if you like, but Steve Bruce's squad have not won for eight games, losing seven.

Call it a work in progress if you like, but the Geordies have scored just once in six games.

“Nice little cushion” from the relegation zone, you say?

Not for long, if the spiral of cluelessness on the ball, that reached a new low against Sheffield United, continues for much longer.

Steve Bruce used all these phrases in recent weeks.

Now he is fighting for his future as Newcastle boss.

Toon fans have largely given up on him. Few defend his record, and why would they given the alarming deterioration they witness game after miserable game.

If the pandemic hadn't locked us all up, and out of St James' Park, Bruce would be in untenable territory by now.

Instead games are played in silence, fan reaction confined to social media, adding layer upon layer of disconnection between the footballing operation and the anger festering in front on the TV.

There are big issues to answer.

The key question Mike Ashley asks is whether Bruce is showing the managerial skills, the tactical know-how, the cleverness, the drive, to keep Newcastle in the league?

That is now in doubt despite Bruce believing they have a comfortable gap above the bottom three.

Ashley is busy with his High Street empire. He's waiting to see if his lawyers can force the Premier League to let him sell the club to Saudi Arabia.

This is probably not the ideal moment for him to sack a manager. Or be able to attract an upgrade replacement, with no budget for transfers this month, and very little available come the summer.

We already know the answer to one key debate.

Bruce isn't the man to vastly improve this squad. He's Mike Ashley's safety first, experienced holding pattern as he tries to sell up.

Existing in the Premier League, however ugly, is the aim.

There's little evidence Bruce's regime is making players better.

He isn't polishing the team shape, making the squad more than the sum of its parts, or even picking the right XI or formation, especially at Bramall Lane.

Bruce has decades in the game and knows he's on dodgy ground.

“I will never walk away from a challenge,” he said on Tuesday night when asked if he had the answers to turn it around.

“I understand that especially in the first half we were not good enough and I take responsibility for that. First half was arguably the poorest we have played for a long time, no disputing that.

“In the Premier League in the bottom half of the league unfortunately you can have a run like this. We want it to end. We had a decent start with points on the board.

"We knew the Christmas period would be difficult.”

The specifics of the Sheffield United defeat are damning.

Why pick a back five against the league's lowest scorers? Why leave out £60million of strikers in Joelinton and Miguel Amiron, even if they have been poor?

Bruce said Sean Longstaff and Ryan Fraser were playing as “false No.10s.” False indeed.

Fraser may as well have flicked his two fingers at Bruce and his team mates with his stupidity in getting sent off.

Bruce hints that he will stick with three centre backs.

In his defence, Even Rafa Benitez, when he was manager, didn't believe the current crop had enough pace to play in a two, and there are greater problems going forward than at the back.

The biggest gripe is when they have the ball.

Building attacks, keeping the ball, relieving the pressure with the passing, seems beyond them in their current set up.

Bruce's side are bottom, or near to bottom, of the Premier League metrics for a host of stats. Passing, creating chances, having shots.

Asked if he would stay in charge, Bruce says: “You are asking the wrong one.”

Will Newcastle United be relegated this season? Have your say here.

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