Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Bruce's Team Will Provide Acid Test

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Bruce's Team Will Provide Acid Test

Article excerpt

Byline: By John Gibson

A geordie of all folk completed one of the most miserable weeks we've ever had to endure - and now he stands full square in the path of the Toon Army once again.

Steve Bruce brought his Birmingham City team of no-nonsense performers to St James' Park back in August and triumphed 1-0.

It was the completion of a hat-trick of home failures - Manchester United victors 2-1 and, desperately damaging, Partizan Belgrade through on a penalty shoot-out to slam the door tightly on Champions League's millions.

Again United confront Bruce having just been knocked out of a cup competition, this time the FA Cup by Liverpool in front of a nation's gaze.

Tomorrow's battle is away, of course, and desperately tricky. We know at first hand that Liverpool, having got key players fit and their back four reassembled, are suddenly a genuine threat to that top-four placing so coveted by Sir Bobby Robson and Freddy Shepherd and therefore in reality three points rather than one are required in the Midlands.

United's away record in the Premiership can be viewed through rose-tinted specs or with apprehension - you may, if you wish, concentrate on only two defeats in 10 matches or, for those of a more pessimistic nature, dwell on a mere two victories.

Perhaps the truth lies in between - six draws out of 10 starts, which is too many for those wishing to feast at the top of the table.

Draws at Leicester, Wolves, Leeds, Everton and even Charlton, where a one-point return may have been trebled, could be costly in the long term, hence the need to go the full way tomorrow.

How Robson reacts to Anfield in terms of team selection, as well as how the players respond in terms of resolve, will be interesting.

Certainly the manager has revealed a hand we always knew he was willing to play. Even if there was a possibility of a mini riot amongst the faithful.

To agree to sell Nobby Solano emphasises that Robson fears no man and will go down his path rather than that dictated by others who, he believes, know less.

Speculate in the transfer market to accumulate can be a policy brave managers are willing to embark upon and I can well recall another high-profile Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan, selling another terrace hero name of Andy Cole. He, too, went in the month of January (1995) with a season in full flow.

"Trust me," demanded KK upon the steps of St James' Park when confronted by disgruntled fans. A promise, if you like, like now of better players to come though the splendid Les Ferdinand didn't make it until the following summer and the current Toon Army demand more immediate action. Trust has always been a big ask in football and to pull it off is quite something.

Solano had come back to senior duty with splendid application, a wonderful natural touch, and wearing his badge of loyalty on a puffed-out chest, but he was always a prime target for an early bath when it came to substitution time. …

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