Since Steve Bruce replaced Rafael Benitez as manager of Newcastle in July 2019, his go-to line after any (usually bad) result has been that his side are a 'work in progress'.
He has now been in charge for 18 months and things are looking bleak - largely down to him.
Tuesday night saw one of the most tepid cup performances in recent history, and Newcastle have had a lot to choose from in that category in years gone by.
A trip to Brentford offered the potential prize of the first domestic cup semi-final for the club in 15 years, but it was passed up with a timid performance.
To make matters worse, the hosts rested six regular first-team starters as boss Thomas Frank was evidently prioritising their promotion push. By contrast, Bruce named arguably the strongest XI available to him and still fell short against the Championship outfit.
There can be no doubt that Newcastle should be beating Brentford, let alone their second-string side.
Bruce's post-match analysis was damning: "We simply haven't played well enough to win the tie. We should have had enough to win the tie - that's why I went as strong as I did."
You're right Steve, you should've. But not just because you picked a strong starting XI. It is laughable. It is as if the supposed boyhood Toon fan is under the impression that all he has to do to win the game is play his best players and they'll somehow find a way to win.
Maybe they could, if they had any practice with the ball, but they don't. His side regularly concede 20 shots on goal and often have 40% of the ball or less, and have recently been outplayed by all three newly-promoted teams, despite somehow managing to pick up four points in the process. That is not the sign of a team progressing. They have spent so much time without the ball, that when they do have it they are simply not good enough with it, as demonstrated on Tuesday night.
Bruce went on to reason that Brentford had played 'very, very well on the night', another infuriating analysis of his own team's shortcomings. Brentford are not Bayern Munich, despite Newcastle's best efforts to make them look as such. In fact Brentford were sloppy (understandably given their changes) so it is soul destroying to hear Bruce reason that the loss was out of his control, that these things 'take time' etc.His insipid interviews and complete lack of ambition have alienated many supporters, so one would think he'd be relieved of the fans' COVID-induced absence. However, his serious lack of judgement was further highlighted as he voiced his wish for their return to St James'. Does he need reminding of the sound of booing?
The absent ambition was perhaps best highlighted after the 1-1 draw against Fulham on Saturday, with the Cottagers down to ten men for the last half-hour. The goal came courtesy of a (questionable) penalty from Callum Wilson with few other chances created. Like a record on repeat Bruce went on...
Like a broken record, Bruce said: "We'll take the point. We haven't done enough today."
It's the same old story, and suddenly with Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester to come in the next three games, Newcastle could find themselves dragged into the relegation scrap.
A trio of defeats to add to their recent misery doesn't seem like progress for a team that finished tenth in their first season back in the Premier League in 2017, does it?
Source : 90min