Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce admits this season has been the most difficult campaign of his managerial career to date amid inconsistent form for his team in the Premier League and disruption caused by the pandemic coronavirus.
The Magpies have flirted with relegation positions all season and ahead of their game against West Ham on Saturday, live on Sky Sports, sit six points above the last three in the Premier League with seven games to go.
In November and December of last year a number of Newcastle staff, players and non-players alike signed up Covid-19 and first-team regulars Allan Saint-Maximin and Jamaal Lascelles both missed around two months of action over the winter after suffering from the long term. effects of the virus. The outbreak also saw their training ground closed for a while and their game against Aston Villa postponed to early December.
Bruce also believes playing behind closed doors and not seeing 52,405-seat St James’s Park full for every home game due to government restrictions over the past year may have had a bigger impact on the form of the team. team compared to other Premier League clubs.
Bruce couldn’t prevent Birmingham City from being relegated to the Championship in 2006 and Hull City was demoted to second tier in 2015 under his tenure at KCOM stadium. But the 60-year-old has said the task of retaining Newcastle’s top status during this time has been the most difficult management challenge he has faced.
When asked if the 2020/21 season has been Bruce’s toughest yet, he said Sky Sports News: “Yeah I think I should say that, with whatever goes with it.
“It could only happen to me that I am the manager of Newcastle and that I was without our support. Our support is very unique, we have a great fan base, [especially] after having them for a year and [having] seen how they are against the big teams and how they help…
“I don’t think we fully understood the seriousness of Covid and what it has done to us, especially after the Crystal Palace game. A lot of people haven’t been well at all.
“You’re talking about supreme athletes here who had to quit for eight weeks and couldn’t increase their heart rate.
“It’s been a really tough and tough time. Look, we’re not out of it yet, we still have a long way to go, but it has been tough of course.”
A loss in their last six games has widened the gap between Newcastle and the relegation places. With the return of Callum Wilson and Saint-Maximin from injury, Bruce’s team have the opportunity to win back-to-back victories on Saturday against West Ham.
The 2-1 win over Burnley was only their third in 20 league outings and their first win in eight games, but Bruce feels encouraged by Newcastle’s recent performances after a poor run of results in recent months and is convinced that his team can secure the summit. flight safety this season.
“There is no doubt that we have gone through a rough patch,” he added.
“If you are in the lower half of the Premier League, the reason you are there is [that] somewhere in the season you will be going through a rough patch.
“Ours from December to January was very difficult. You have to understand what’s coming in the Premier League and stay there if you can.
“The experience you gain along the way, you call in your tough times, because if you’re in the Premier League and you’re in the bottom half you’re going to go through tough times, and the league is so ruthless and so good that you are wondering where your next win comes from, of course.
“But we’ve only lost one in our last six games so slowly and steadily that we’re racking up the points for what is needed to stay in this division.”
David Moyes’ West Ham, who has lost just three times this calendar year, heads to Tyneside after back-to-back wins against Wolves and Leicester City. The Hammers are in fourth place and their manager has vowed to do whatever he can to try and secure Champions League football for next season.
With both coaches having had a managerial career spanning more than 20 years, Bruce believes there are similarities in the way the seasoned couple operate and is delighted to see Moyes succeed on his second stint at London Stadium.
“I think we both have the ability to roll up our sleeves and work hard and I’m really happy for Dave,” said Bruce.
“In my opinion, he was not given enough time to get the real big, big job. Glad to see him again because he works tirelessly at what he does.
“Since I and the Premier League have been there, Moysey always seems to have been there. It has to be something that we both have, but I think it’s the ability to work hard and get stuck in it.
“Of course along the way we both must have had thick skin, but that’s part of it and I’m glad to see it so well.”