NEWCASTLE, England: Steve Bruce said he knew the Newcastle United job came with a health warning and Saturday’s rip-roaring 3-2 win over Southampton in the Premier League tested the blood pressure of the vastly-experienced manager.
His side ended with nine men, courtesy of a needless red card and yet another injury but despite what he described as an awful last half hour his side dig deep for the points.
“A mate of mine when I took the job said it came with a health hazard and I think the two minutes after halftime summed it up,” Bruce said. “We could have gone 4-1 up, it looked rosey. Instead, we were at 3-2 and down to 10 men.”
The fact that Newcastle claimed their first home league win for almost two months despite their numerical disadvantage showed that whatever criticim has been aimed at Bruce and his players, they possess a strong spirit.
Victory lifted them to 25 points from 23 games in 16th place crucially provided an 11-point cushion over the third-from bottom Fulham before they kicked off against West Ham United.
But they had to do it the hard way having led 2-0 after 25 minutes thanks to Joe Willock’s debut goal and Miguel Almiron being credited with a goal after his effort was deflected by Southampton defender Jan Bednarek.
Even though Almiron scored just before the break to restore their two-goal lead, Newcastle had Jeff Hendrick sent off for a silly pull of the short of Takumi Minamino who had scored Southampton’s first goal.
“The last half hour is awful to be brutally honest,” Bruce said. “But the blocks they got in, the challenges they made, I couldn’t be more pleased. They have hung on very well.
“The resilience of the team and the effort and commitment was terrific.”
Bruce now faces a defensive injury pile-up with Schar looking to have sustained a nasty knee injury and Javier Manquillo also being forced off in the first half. Newcastle also lost striker Callum Wilson to injury before the break.
“Unfortunately, it looks as if we’ve picked up an awful injury with Manquillo. It looks as if Fab Schar has a bad knee injury. And, of course, Callum Wilson has a hamstring too,” Bruce said.
“For too long we’ve had people missing with illness and injury. We’ve been desperate at times.”