How does Newcastle boss Steve Bruce’s reign compare to that of Rafael Benitez?

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Steve Bruce spent the early months of his reign as Newcastle head coach knowing by his own admission he was “not everyone’s cup of tea”.

Parachuted in as a replacement for the hugely-popular Rafael Benitez after the Spaniard opted not to extend his three-year stay on Tyneside last summer, the former Manchester United defender was fighting fires from the off.

What has transpired since has tempered some, but far from all, of the criticism.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at how his statistics for the first 29 games of the current Premier League season compare with those for the same period in Benitez’s last.

Bruce’s record

P 29 W 9 D 8 L 12 F 25 A 41 GD -16 Pts 35

Benitez’s record

P 29 W 8 D 7 L 14 F 26 A 36 GD -10 Pts 31

Winning is everything

Bruce’s nine wins to date have included some impressive scalps. His first came against the odds at Tottenham, and his second courtesy of 19-year-old midfielder Matty Longstaff’s first senior goal against Manchester United. Isaac Hayden’s late winner accounted for Chelsea at St James’ Park, although home victories over Southampton and Crystal Palace were scratchy to say the least. Benitez had to wait until November 3 for his first win of the 2018-19 campaign, but two more over Bournemouth and Burnley followed immediately. The Magpies fared well against the teams around them, completing doubles over Huddersfield and the Clarets, although Matt Ritchie’s late penalty famously condemned eventual champions Manchester City to a 2-1 defeat on Tyneside.

Bringing goals to Newcastle

Newcastle have been looking for a prolific goalscorer ever since Alan Shearer's retirement in 2006
Newcastle have been looking for a prolific goalscorer ever since Alan Shearer’s retirement in 2006 (Gareth Copley/PA)

The case for the defence

Rafael Benitez's Newcastle masterplan was founded on miserly defence
Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle masterplan was founded on miserly defence (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Strong to the finish

Just how the 2019-20 campaign will pan out remains to be seen, but Bruce will hope he can mirror the pattern of the Benitez era if and when football resumes. In both of his two full top-flight seasons, the Spaniard presided over impressive run-ins, garnering 15 points from the final nine games in 2017-18 to finish 10th on 44 points, and managing one fewer 12 months later to claim 13th spot with 45.

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