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Manager year in review: Eddie Howe fixing the damage done by Steve Bruce

Over the past 12 months, Newcastle United have had two owners and two managers. And they both go hand in hand.

The first manager, Steve Bruce, was perfect for the previous regime. Appointed by the new owners, Eddie Howe is the man tasked with taking the club forward and re-writing the wrongs of those before him.

It’s been a crazy year for Newcastle. And actions on the touchline have been more divisive than ever. But while 2021 started with anguish and despair as fans watched from home, it ends with renewed hope and optimism following key changes in October and November.

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Steve Bruce got it all wrong in 2021 as Toon manager

While the 2019/20 campaign was alright for Bruce, the wheels well and truly fell off in 2020/21.

Results were okay at the start of the season, but they did not match the performances. Then the squad was hit with a COVID outbreak, and the results really did start to match the performances.

As 2021 began, Newcastle were in the midst of a rotten run. They lost their first game of the year to Leicester, extending their winless run to six games in all competitions. That run would end in January, as the arrival of Graeme Jones helped the Magpies beat Everton 2-0.

Bruce was given a massive boost by Jones, even if fans thought he wasn’t the manager’s choice.

But the Graeme Jones honeymoon didn’t last long, as Newcastle’s form took them within a whisker of the relegation zone.

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Bruce admitted the gloves were off and he’d do things his way in January, but nothing changed. It was merely a soundbite from the manager, who was becoming less and less coherent and much more spikey every time he spoke to the press.

Forget the gloves, the wheels were starting to fall off. Newcastle drew 1-1 with Wolves at St James’ Park in February, and days later a report of a training ground bust-up emerged. Matt Ritchie vs Steve Bruce.

The writing seemed on the wall. As results continued to get worse, Bruce’s position felt more and more untenable.

A 3-0 defeat to Brighton in March felt like the end. It left the Magpies with just two wins in 20 games.

But Bruce soldiered on, and a new 3-5-2 formation and an in-form Joe Willock guided Newcastle to mid-table obscurity. Somehow Bruce did what seemed the impossible, and there was even a hint that the football was slightly improving.

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It didn’t last though. The new season brought more disappointment, as fans returned and pressure mounted on Bruce. It didn’t take long for SJP to chant ‘we want Brucey out’.

Eventually, fans got their wish. Bruce’s final game as manager was the 3-2 defeat to Tottenham – the first game following the club’s £305million takeover.

There was a reported bust-up after that game too, as chaos continued despite the change in ownership.

On October 20th, Bruce was relieved of his duties.

Eddie Howe offers Newcastle hope

On November 8th, the new Newcastle owners announced that Eddie Howe is the club’s new manager. After a lengthy search process that involved an embarrassing rejection from Unai Emery, PIF and co turned to the former Bournemouth boss.

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He’d been linked during the Mike Ashley era, but this was different. Everything about it felt different.

Howe immediately made a big impression. Arriving early for training and videos of his sessions quickly endeared him to fans. And the players have responded too.

We’ve seen huge improvements from the likes of Joelinton, while our relegation prospects aren’t as bleak as they once were.

But things still haven’t been easy for Howe. Performances have often been poor, while individual moments have rallied against the new manager.

He wasn’t there for his first game against Brentford. We went down to 10 men early at home to Norwich. There’s been shocking referee decisions against Leicester, Liverpool and Manchester City.

But Howe did get the club’s elusive first win of the season on December 4th, beating Burnley 1-0. It was a huge three points. The fans went crazy.

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So did the players, who have been mocked far and wide for having the audacity to celebrate winning a game of football.

Newcastle play more on the front foot now. We try and play higher up the pitch, while our pressing has improved too. But Howe’s Newcastle are still a work in progress.

We won’t truly know how good he is until he gets some new signings in January. That’s when business will truly pick up for Eddie Howe.

2021 started with fans shouting at the telly for Bruce to go. It ends with 50,000 Geordies chanting ‘Eddie Howe’s black and white army’. And that says it all.

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