Darren Bent has issued a passionate defence of his former boss Steve Bruce, amid calls from Newcastle United fans for the manager to be sacked.
The former Sunderland striker insisted the criticism of his old coach is ‘unfair’ and has called out Magpies supporters for constantly comparing him to Rafael Benitez.
Bruce will undoubtedly get more criticism following the Arsenal defeatGetty Images – Getty
Bruce was already under huge pressure from Newcastle’s avid fanbase before Monday’s trip to Arsenal, where a miserable 3-0 defeat was the final straw for many fed up supporters.
The Toon sit seven points clear of the bottom-three, but their lifeless and stale performances at times this season have seen support of Bruce – what was left of it – almost completely evaporate on Tyneside.
The coach has come under fire for his negative and defensive tactics. His Newcastle team – despite a number of talented attackers in their squad, including No.9 Callum Wilson – have the FIFTH-worst goal record in the Premier League this term, with 18 scored from 18 games.
Fans appear to have had enough of watching their team play so badly, with talkSPORT shows being inundated with calls from disgruntled supporters calling for Bruce’s head – including regular guest, former England cricket star Steve Harmison.
But Bent has hit back at the criticism, insisting Bruce’s tactics aren’t all that different to the pragmatic style of his predecessor Benitez and claiming fans have a ‘personal’ issue with Bruce.
“I feel for Steve Bruce,” he told talkSPORT Breakfast host Laura Woods.
“I played for Steve Bruce at Sunderland and he was never negative.
“Some of the performances we put in when I was up there – we beat Arsenal, we beat Liverpool, we beat Manchester City, we beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He understood that these teams are better than us anyway, so we might as well have a go.
“So I don’t quite see how all of a sudden it’s all about this negative football.
“I never thought Steve Bruce was given a fair share [from Newcastle fans] anyway, because it was quite obvious they didn’t want him there in the first place.
“They always go back to Rafa Benitez, but that’s unfair because when they got Rafa Benitez the fans felt like, ’I can’t believe we’ve got someone like Benitez with the CV he’s got’.
“It was like, forgot about the football because they had Rafa Benitez and it’s fantastic they had such a great manager who won the Champions League, won the Europa League and was in charge at Real Madrid.
Benitez was adored by Newcastle fans after he took the club back to the Premier League, but in his two top-flight seasons only managed to finish 10th and 13thgetty
“And then when Rafa left and they got Steve Bruce, even though the football is exactly the same and there’s no real difference, it’s all doom and gloom.
“He’s playing the exact same way Rafa did, but because Rafa’s CV is unbelievable it was seen as, ‘OK that’s fine, we can play this way’ and they accepted it. They thought, ‘who are we to tell Rafa how to play…’ but when it’s Steve Bruce it’s not good enough.
“Unfortunately for Steve it looks like he just can’t win. I think it’s a personal thing, it’s got to be a personal thing.
“I don’t think he ever really convinced Newcastle fans anyway that he was the right man for the job.
“I mean, he’s a Geordie who managed Sunderland first, so that’s a big issue for the fans anyway. He’s fighting a losing battle against the supporters.
Bruce’s side are currently 15th in the Premier LeagueGetty Images
“He’s done a good job, i think they could be a bit more creative and do a bit more going forward, but i don’t think they’ll go down.
“If he feels that he’s not got the players to compete, what do they expect him to do? He can go out there and play like Leeds and get carved to shreds – then what? So he tries to play a bit more tight, and they get beat – he can’t win!
“Even when Steve Bruce was doing really well, there were fans hoping Rafa might come back.”
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