Steve Bruce will hold a clear-the-air showdown with his rebellious Newcastle United squad today with his job on the line.
The United chief will assemble his disgruntled stars after another day off on Thursday – their third of the week despite being in a relegation battle – and will address dissent in the ranks, which came to a head with Matt Ritchie's training ground bust-up.
Bruce has patched up the incident with Ritchie, despite being branded a “coward” by the player, but tension and dissatisfaction remain as reported by MirrorSport on Tuesday.
Newcastle face fellow relegation strugglers West Brom on Sunday, with Bruce needing to add to the team's two wins in 17 games quickly to avoid the intervention of owner Mike Ashley, who has been reluctant to sack him because it would require an astonishing £4m payout.
Bruce will face questions from the media this morning for the first time since his squad meltdown, and will insist the vast majority of players still support him.
However with a Geordie fans base largely against Bruce, and crowds likely to be back before the end of the season, and definitely by August, his time at St James' Park could be limited.
Newcastle supporters believe they are trapped in a Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce nightmare – and won't be happy again until both are gone.
Many rival fans and pundits don't understand Newcastle United, and their supporters.
A common criticism is that Geordies are always moaning, measure everything against the glory days of Kevin Keegan's Entertainers, hate Mike Ashley because he's a “cockney”, and that nothing will ever be good enough.
But consider the reality. In the 14 years BEFORE Ashley bought the club in 2007, Newcastle United had eight top seven finishes in the Premier League.
They had ten European campaigns including three in the Champions League, reached a UEFA Cup semi final and two quarter finals.
In the domestic cups they were in the last eight of the FA Cup seven times, including runners up at Wembley twice.
In the 14 years since Ashley paid £133m to be owner, to “have some fun”and starting out wearing a replica kit and drinking beer in the away end, there's only been ONE good season – when Alan Pardew led the club to fifth in 2012, after a run to the Europa League quarters
Two relegations, balanced by two Championship promotions, and nine times finishing tenth or below in the top flight.
An amazing 23 domestic cup campaigns out of 28 have ended in the fourth round or earlier.
Not to mention the disrespect shown to legends like Keegan and Alan Shearer, the renaming of St James' Park to the Sports Direct Arena, bringing in pay-day loan sharks Wonga as shirt sponsors, among many other controversies.
Clubs can't live off past glories, and many fall further from the pinnacle than Newcastle have…. but this is a club that has been trapped in unhappy relationships at every level.
It is little wonder that Newcastle had to give away 10,000 season tickets last season because empty seats were starting to look embarrassing on TV, as long serving fans concluded there was no joy in it anymore.
Newcastle just try to exist in the Premier League. It is not the dreamy sporting adventure that fans across the country grew to love a couple of decades ago.
The pain of the decline has broken many a loyalist and caused a divorce from what used to be their religion.
In the summer there was the downright cruel, lockdown saga, of the failed takeover. One month Newcastle were about to become the richest club in the world backed by Saudi Arabia's wealth fund.
But they were led on by misplaced confidence from Amanda Staveley and her consortium, as TV sports rights piracy, and murder, derailed the £340m bid, and left Geordies stuck with a regime they hate want rid of at all levels.
It's been tormenting. Unpleasant. So little to cling to.
Now relegation is on the cards for a third time under Ashley, unless Bruce can galvanise his players in one last 12 game push.
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