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What chance escape?

After finally showing a little backbone and some attacking intent in the second half of the home game against Leeds last week, the big question was whether that performance was false hope, or a genuine sign that Steve Bruce could turn things around!

Today's performance against a decent enough, although out of sorts, Everton side will certainly give many food for thought.

Aggressive, high intensity, relentless and ruthless are not words you'd often use to describe Newcastle United this season, but the Magpies were all of those things today. So where has that performance been all season?

Have, as Steve Bruce declared a week ago, the gloves come off?

We analyse the four key factors that influenced today's change of fortune.

Number One: Steve Bruce has nothing to lose anymore.

The blackout of the written local media and his seeming declaration he and the club are under siege seems the final act of a play that, in his head at least, sees the hero thrown asunder. As his family rally around him, comforting him against the mob outside his metaphorical window, Bruce must surely have realised he might as well go out with a bang. Who cares if he loses by three or four, 'they hated me from the start anyway!'. Give them what they want. You can clearly imagine him using the words 'just go out and play lads' (as so widely reported over recent weeks), as he tells the team to cast off the shackles.

A man on borrowed time, so why not?

This, as we've seen from our tactically inept dinosaur, was never going to be enough though. Not on it's own at least.

Number Two: The players rally

The talk in recent weeks was that Bruce had lost the dressing room. Certainly the potential dropping of Saint-Maximin before his extended trip to France due to 'COVID' seemed to be an indication some (if not most) had given up the ghost. And yet there they were, in the second half against Leeds when all seemed lost, and again today, giving it a real god damn go!

It's been a long time since you could look down the team sheet and score more than one of two of those wearing the Newcastle jersey more than 5 out of 10. Yet look at them today. For whatever reason, they decided to turn up and show some fight, for each other, their manager, and/or just their own pride.

Number Three: Return to fitness

Bruce has long pointed to his injury and sickness list as a real issue for him and his team.

And whilst there are fair claims that irrespective of these issues he should have managed to get more out of a decent enough squad, he does have a point.

At both ends of the pitch United have had real issues. Missing centre halves, and certainly having the same two or three fit for any run of games has been a problem. Whilst at the other end he's been missing Fraser and Saint-Maximin, two of his potentially most potent and forward thinking players, for long spells.

One thing is for sure, Newcastle need to provide Wilson with as much support and ammunition as possible, and keeping their talisman fit is perhaps most important of all.

But having a few of these guys back fit and playing can only have helped his and Newcastle's cause.

Number Four: Graeme Jones

No one who watched today's game against Everton, or who saw those photographs of Newcastle's training sessions this week, could have missed the visible and audible presence of Graeme Jones.

Whether or not the images of Bruce and Jones were carefully timed and framed to be provocative to the Newcastle faithful, the mismatch in demeanour of both men is striking.

Certainly without that second half performance against Leeds, before Jones arrived, there would have been even more noise about the impact that Jones has made since arriving at the club given the striking difference in the 90 minutes play we've just seen compared to those of recent weeks and months.

And has Jones had anything to do with the positions being taken by some of the players today? Something has changed! Miggy a difference player in his preferred position. Lewis looking like the left back we thought we'd bought. All very strange, in a good way! Surely that can't be Jones in just a few days... Can it?!

So then, what chance of Newcastle staying up?

Well 'one swan does not a summer make', that's for sure.

To reverse a run of form that has seen just two point in the preceding 9 games is going to take some doing. Newcastle lucky, and we really do mean lucky given how the team have played all season, that they had already taken 17 points from the early season games before that horrendous run.

History does tell us however, that we are thus far still ahead of points tally not just of the last relegation season (15/16), but also of Rafa's last campaign in 18/19 (although it's clear to see how strongly he finished his final season at St James Park before being inexplicably dumped).

'Statistically' there is more to be worried about however. Factoring in how Bruce finished last season, and the tailing off this mid-season, the projections indicate there is much to be concerned about, with an end of season project of 36 points meaning the Magpies could well be in serious trouble.

Of course, it really comes down to just one thing. Was today the 'one-off'. Was it the equivalent of even a broken clock being right twice a day, by which we mean, even the worst sides just have those days where everything goes for them, not because they planned it, but 'just because'.

Or is this a result that we should hold onto with hope. One that, perhaps given the four points outlined earlier, Newcastle may just have hit a perfect combination of desperation, luck and desire that will get themselves out of this mess, well, for another season at least.

Time will tell.

But at least, for the first time in what seems like forever, there is a glimmer of hope!



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