The Chronicle

It’s time for key players to step up

BRUCE HELPED BIG NAMES GET NEW DEALS: NOW THEY MUST REPAY HIM

- By LEE RYDER Chief newcastle writer lee.ryder@reachplc.com @lee_ryder

A “WORK in progress” is how Steve Bruce described Newcastle United, despite having taken over as the club’s head coach 15 months ago.

Progress is a word the Geordie veteran has used a fair amount recently, using it to explain the growth he has seen during his tenure but also to emphasise there is still plenty to do.

Thus far, it has been difficult to quantify both how far the club has moved forward – it seems as if the head coach and fans have differing views at times – and how far Bruce thinks is left to go.

The 4-1 defeat against Manchester United sparked an angry response from supporters in the immediate aftermath of the game on the only platform fans have available to them at the moment in the shape of social media.

It seems a fair bet boos would have rang out around St James’ Park simply because of the manner in which Newcastle capitulate­d late on.

Bruce’s record as boss is average statistica­lly with 18 wins, 16 draws and 19 defeats since he took charge.

That win percentage would put him just ahead of S am Allardyce,

Jack Charlton and Bill McGarry and not far behind

Jim Smith, Willie McFaul and Ruud Gullit.

The latest round of results saw United slip back to 13th place, a familiar position for the club in recent times – but then again Bruce has not been in the relegation zone for a full year on Tyneside. In a year in which Martin Dubravka, Karl Darlow, Isaac Hayden, Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey and now Allan Saint-Maximin have signed new contracts, there have been moments of positivity and cause for optimism, yet fans also believe that having those players means United should be doing better. In his first full summer in charge, Bruce has moved to bring in extra quality and Premier League knowhow in Ryan Fraser, Callum Wilson and Jamal Lewis. While the jury is still out on Jeff Hendrick – for supporters at least – the Magpies’ head coach has worked hard to settle the dressing room and bring order to St James’.

On the back of a series of relegation battles in recent years, Bruce did at least steady the ship last season, which is commendabl­e given the club were in such chaos when he took over that one bookmaker paid out on relegation before the season even started last year.

One of the things Bruce became quickly aware of was the number of players with question marks above their head in terms of contracts.

Assembling a dressing-room core which backs the manager and ultimately cajoles others to play for him is not uncommon but the next few weeks are now massive for those who have landed lucrative deals.

After playing a part in helping players get them, will Bruce be rewarded by those who initially said they are right behind him?

With Saint-Maximin celebratin­g a deal which takes him to 2026, it felt like he only put in half a performanc­e against the Red Devils.

He was not alone with Jamaal Lascelles, Shelvey and others dipping in performanc­e levels as the game wore but the clash at Wolves is a chance for a good number of players to redeem themselves.

Certainly, there are some

Certainly there are some who owe their manager a performanc­e or a goal or two if selected

Lee Ryder

who h owe their h manager a performanc­e or a goal or two if selected, including Andy Carroll and Joelinton, with their boss bending over backwards to support them publicly but not seeing much back in return.

Talking about the bigger picture in terms of squad building, Bruce, whose side finished f hd 13th hl last season, told ld the Chronicle: “That was what we were trying to make the aim here.

“We wanted to bring a bit of calmness and steadiness to the group.

“Also the way the players had performed (prior to winning new deals).

“I am delighted they have committed their future.

“From “day d one we have h always said it is about trying to make the club improve.”

Now, with the group relatively settled in terms of their futures, Bruce hopes to see the results follow.

He added: “Quietly we want to go about our business.

“With the help of my CEO (Lee Charnley, left) that is what we will continue to try to do. Bit by bit.

“Hopefully it will make us bigger and stronger but that takes time.”

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 ??  ?? Ryan Fraser was signed to bolster United’s attack
Jamal Lewis has started at left-back
Ryan Fraser was signed to bolster United’s attack Jamal Lewis has started at left-back
 ??  ?? Thanks to Allan SaintMaxim­in and Callum Wilson, Newcastle have earned a respectabl­e points tally thus far this season – but Steve Bruce (far right) insists his side is still a ‘work in progress’
Thanks to Allan SaintMaxim­in and Callum Wilson, Newcastle have earned a respectabl­e points tally thus far this season – but Steve Bruce (far right) insists his side is still a ‘work in progress’

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