Steve Bruce unleashed a furious assessment of his Newcastle United players, branding their performance at Sheffield United “absolutely s***” and declaring “the gloves are off now”.
The Magpies were beaten 1-0 at Bramall Lane on Tuesday to become the first team to lose to the Blades in the Premier League this season.
They were also the first side to fail to score against Sheffield United in the top flight since July as they lost to a team starting the day bottom of the table for the first time since October 2015.
Bruce has come in for increasing criticism from fans for his team’s performances during an eight-game winless run in which they have exited the EFL Cup and FA Cup, as well as suffering four league losses.
The Newcastle head coach accepts he got things wrong against Sheffield United but claims some critics have always felt he was “never the right choice”.
After their latest setback, Bruce has made it clear he will not tolerate anything but a commitment to his methods at St James’ Park.
1 – Newcastle have lost a Premier League away game against the team starting the day bottom of the table for the first time since October 2015, versus Sunderland (3-0). Desperate. pic.twitter.com/Aey6PtTK0V
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 12, 2021
“I’ve let them be comfortable,” he said of his players. “But, like I say, the gloves are off now and we will do it my way. We’ve played a certain way to try to get the results we need.
“We were absolutely fr****** hopeless the other night; we were absolutely s****. Unfortunately, that’s happened a little too often in my 18 months here; it was nowhere near good enough for the challenge ahead. Maybe it’s a mentality thing.
“If you’re a Premier League manager you can’t accept what happened at Sheffield United. We were completely and utterly hopeless and I have to accept what’s coming my way. If I was a supporter I’d be concerned.”
While the loss to Sheffield United was the nadir of their season, the signs have been worrying for Newcastle for some weeks.
Much of the criticism of Bruce has centred on a perceived negative style of play, with Newcastle having averaged the lowest possession (37.8 per cent) and completed the second-fewest passes (4,430) in the Premier League this season.
Only Burnley and West Brom have attempted fewer shots than Newcastle’s 150, which have yielded 18 goals, the fifth-lowest total in the division. Only five teams have conceded more than their 27 goals and just three have kept fewer than their three clean sheets.
“I wouldn’t expect to be reassured after the other night,” Bruce said of his position. “I pick the team, I got it wrong and I have to take responsibility. I don’t want reassurances. I understand it’s nowhere near good enough so let’s get ready for the challenge ahead.
“If you look at my record over the years, I’ve got enough on my CV to make sure I can slowly take the club forward. Some would argue against that. I accept that. In some people’s eyes, I was never the right choice. I understand that.”