Local Boy Or Mackem?

Last updated : 14 August 2019 By Footy Mad - Editor

In any other circumstances it should have been a celebratory day at St James' Park as a local boy fulfilled his dream of taking charge of boyhood club Newcastle for the first time in a competitive fixture.

However, this was ex-Sunderland manager Steve Bruce following in the wake of Rafael Benitez' departure, a failed takeover bid, with protests outside the ground over the ownership of Mike Ashley.

To top it off it was a miserable rain-soaked occasion as the Magpies suffered a 1-0 loss against Arsenal.

Newcastle's opening-day woes continued as they failed to win again.

2019-20 Arsenal (h) 0-1
2018-19 Tottenham (h) 1-2
2017-18 Tottenham (h) 0-2
2016-17 Fulham (a) 0-1
2015-16 Southampton (h) 2-2
2014-15 Man City (h) 0-2

Much of the build-up to the match in the local press focused on the scheduled protest against the ownership of Ashley, which have now become as permanent a fixture in these parts as the Hoppings fun fair.

The latest of these, which took place outside the stadium's club shop, was organised by a handful of fans' groups who continued the familiar theme of wanting the 54-year-old retail billionaire out of the club.

Around 50-100 attended, holding banners that included the words, 'We don't demand a club that wins, we demand a club that tries'. Another, slightly less tasteful, carried the infamous topless images of the Newcastle chief accompanied by the words, 'Asset Stripping'.

The fuel for this latest ire was provided by a combination of events this summer: the departure of the fans' beloved Benitez and the failure of yet another supposed takeover bid.

Aside from the banners and a speech from a group leader, there was also a chant reserved for the departed Spanish manager which began, "Rafa was right..."

The rest cannot be printed.

Having been turned down by the club as a youth player, then twice turning the club down as a manager, the boy who grew up a few miles from the ground is finally a fully-fledged Magpie.

There was no Tannoy announcement introducing the former Sunderland boss as he was met before kick-off by a reception of photographers. Perhaps the club feared a negative reaction?

He gave a thumbs-up to someone in the crowd before the action got under way and then stood in his area for much of the match occasionally barking instructions, but was relatively placid compared to his animated counterpart Unai Emery.

There was little reaction when Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang punished the one major defensive mistake of the match and a shrug of the shoulders at the final whistle.

On his first competitive game in charge he said: "It's one I'll never forget, I'm disappointed with the result, but it is a wonderful privilege to manage this great club."

After the match, the conversations between those fans who were milling about the nearby bars seemed neutral on the prospects of Bruce.

One fan, who has held a season ticket for 30 years, was swaying more towards the unconvinced.

"Bruce is not for Newcastle United," said Robert Chater from Stanley. "I'll give him his chance but he's an 11th-choice manager.

"He managed the Mackems first."