Steve Bruce has told his Newcastle players “the gloves are off” and that they will now do it his way after turning in a “s****” performance at Sheffield United.
The 60-year-old has been engulfed by a tide of criticism since the Magpies became the first side to lose a Premier League game to the Blades this season following a woeful display at Bramall Lane in midweek.
Bruce was already in the firing line after a series of poor performances, including a desperately tame Carabao Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of Sky Bet Championship Brentford, and while he insists his team was significantly better in drawing with champions Liverpool and holding Arsenal until extra-time in the FA Cup, he knows Tuesday night was simply not acceptable.
He said: “We were absolutely fr****** hopeless the other night. Absolute s****, we were. I have to accept it, and that’s the way it is.
“If you’re Newcastle manager or any manager in the Premier League, you can’t accept what the other night was.
“Unfortunately it’s happened a little bit too often, so all of the good work in the four games leading up to it – yes, we didn’t get the results, but I thought the way the team played, we did OK. We drew with Liverpool, drew with Arsenal after 90 minutes, we were in the game against Leicester.
“The other night was completely and utterly hopeless and I have to accept whatever is coming my way.”
During his 18 months at the club to date, Bruce has wrestled with the shape of a team which had prospered from being difficult to beat under predecessor Rafael Benitez.
His inclination is to play with four rather than five at the back in an effort to take a more progressive approach, but his players have at times looked uncomfortable with that system.
However, Bruce has hinted that things are about to change with supplies of both goals and points having dried up.
He said: “It’s something I’ve toyed with since I’ve been at the club and, for me, to change is sometimes difficult for them.
“I’ve let them be comfortable. But the gloves are off now. I’m going to do it my way. I’m going to do it the way I see fit and see where we are.
“OK, we’ve played a certain way to try to make sure we get the results that we need. But I’ve said from day one the way I wanted to play and haven’t done it enough.”