Alan Shearer thinks Newcastle United fans can be “pretty positive” about the job Steve Bruce has done so far – even if he admits the football has not been great to watch.
A debate has raged about Bruce since the turgid 0-0 draw with Norwich, which was the second successive stalemate of a season which continues to confound.
United are doing better than expected in the league and can make the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time in the Mike Ashley era if they defeat Oxford at the Kassam Stadium. But the displays, football and firepower have warranted criticism.
Shearer gave his take on BBC News’ Sportsday: “Newcastle haven’t been past the fourth round under Mike Ashley. Tonight they can get into the next round and with a decent draw against West Brom and the number of points they’ve got under Steve Bruce I can understand why people are saying (he’s done a decent job).
“The football at times hasn’t been pretty, they certainly haven’t scored as many goals as the Newcastle fans would like but in terms of an overall then yeah, it can be pretty positive.”
While Liverpool haven’t even sent manager Jurgen Klopp to their fourth round replay, Shearer says Newcastle won’t view the competition as an unwanted distraction.
“Not for Newcastle, it’s not. They haven’t been successful and haven’t been past the fifth round under Ashley so that’s something he’ll want to improve on.
“He’s played a relatively strong team in the last round and in the home game against Oxford and I expect him to do the same tonight because he wants to get through. It’s a decent draw against West Brom for whoever gets through so fingers crossed that might be Newcastle.”
United are favourites but BBC cameras are in Oxford tonight to see a possible upset. Shearer said: “When you look at the record of Newcastle in this competition – when I was playing, we got to two finals. We didn’t manage to win it before anyone says anything but at least we had a go. That’s what the fans want. When things haven’t been going great, they haven’t been scoring enough goals, this game can keep their season going.
“It’ll be a really tough game. I know their priority is to get out of League One but they showed in the first game that they’re a decent side. Newcastle are going to have to be better than they have been in the last couple of weeks to get into the fifth round.”