Newcastle United 2020/21 season ratings: Joe Willock 9, Steve Bruce 5, Joelinton 3
Top-flight safety secured and a 12th-place finish but little sign of progress from Magpies with owner Mike Ashley no closer to selling club
Mission accomplished for Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley. Another season in the Premier League is safely in the bag.
Manager Steve Bruce's position looked untenable during a catastrophic mid-season run of two wins in 22 games. After a 3-0 battering at fellow strugglers Brighton on March 20, Newcastle were in 17th place, just two points about third-bottom Fulham and Bruce's days looked numbered.
Tension within the squad was also making headlines. A story appeared in the The Telegraph before the game against Wolves that goalkeeper Karl Darlow was set to be dropped for Martin Dubravka – the problem being this was before the former had been told.
Following that game with Wolves, a blistering training ground row between Bruce and midfielder Matt Ritchie also found its way it's way into the public domain as the under-pressure manager vowed to find the club source who was feeding information to the media.
But Ashley stuck by his man and Newcastle rallied during the season finale, winning five of their last eight games, including the performance of the season in a 4-2 win at Leicester City.
It is worth noting, though, that such was the woeful efforts of the bottom three – Fulham, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United – this season, Newcastle could have taken one point from the remaining nine games after the Brighton defeat and still survived.
In Bruce's defence, there have also been some mitigating circumstances to Newcastle's troubles.
A Covid-19 outbreak cost them the services of club captain Jamaal Lascelles and attacking maverick Allan Saint-Maximin for a number of weeks, while injuries have prevented a settled defensive line-up throughout the campaign and cost them top goalscorer Callum Wilson for more than two months in the New Year.
On the positive side, Wilson, a £20 million summer signing from Bournemouth, scored 12 crucial goals and provided the cutting edge the team desperately needed up front.
The exciting Saint-Maximin's return from illness was crucial to Newcastle's late run, as was loan signing Joe Willock and his scarcely believable run of scoring in seven successive games.
They finished the season in 12th place, one point and one place better off than the previous campaign. But with Ashley still desperate to sell the club and Bruce still desperately unpopular with the fans, the future remains far from clear-cut for all concerned.
Above is a picture gallery of the Newcastle squad and their ratings for the 2020/21 season. To move on to the next picture, simply click on the arrows or scroll through on your device.
Updated: May 26, 2021 07:29 AM