Newcastle’s win at Sheffield United last night was a significant one, not only for lifting Newcastle to 11th, but because some fans audibly credited Steve Bruce for the first time.
Backs to the wall, smash and grab, perfect counter-attacking performance – call it what you will – but Newcastle became the first team to beat the Blades by more than one goal at Bramall Lane since Fleetwood Town did it in League One in January 2017.
To a man, Newcastle defended resolutely, and despite having few chances, and being behind in possession, attempts and shots on target stats, they dominated the most important one – goals scored.
Such was the importance of the three points, a visibly ecstatic Steve Bruce ventured onto the pitch afterwards to applaud and punch the air to the away fans, for the first time since his summer appointment.
If that was a surprise, what happened next was a bigger one.
I was standing among the celebrating fans, and in response to Bruce’s actions, there were clear, audible chants of “Bruuuuuuuce!” from the away end.
I was stunned when I heard it. So much so, I asked my 12-year-old son who was with me: “Were they yells of ‘Bruuuuuuuce!’ or boos?”.
He confirmed they were definitely the former.
As incredible – and unbelievable – as it may seem, perhaps the tide for the manager, seen as an underwhelming appointment at the time, is starting to turn.
Is Bruce winning doubting Newcastle fans over?
Fickle fans? Or supporters appreciating a decent job being done? I will leave you to debate and decide that.
But when he was named manager in July, there were two things I simply would never have expected before Christmas:
Firstly, I would never have thought Newcastle would be 11th in the Premier League table after the awful set of opening fixtures.
Secondly, I would have called someone a liar if they told me Newcastle fans – even just a handful – would be chanting Bruce’s name after a game.
Of course, there is a long way to go this season, and it will take a lot more than a couple of results to convince the majority of fans that the tide has, indeed, turned for Bruce, but without taking sides, he has always said winning games is all he can do to try to win them over.
And on a damp Thursday night in December, in Sheffield, maybe the first signs of that happening were witnessed.