Steve Bruce thinks the continued absence of fans from stadiums cheapens the Premier League product as the Newcastle head coach said: “It’s better than nothing but without the supporters, for me, the spectacle is not enough.”
The initial plan for spectators to return to sporting venues in October was shelved amid rising coronavirus cases and despite pleas from a number of football clubs and organisations, there is no prospect of the ban lifting soon.
While Bruce is grateful that matches are able to be played amid the pandemic, he is acutely aware of the eeriness that greets his side at St James’ Park, a stadium which is used to holding in excess of 50,000 noisy onlookers.
There will once again be near total silence when the Magpies welcome early Premier League leaders Everton to the north-east on Sunday afternoon, which Bruce, who took charge of his hometown club last year, finds unnerving.
“Somebody said to me: ‘Your dream job, it could only happen to you that there’s nobody there’,” Bruce said.
“The reason you come to manage Newcastle is to be in front of 50-odd thousand every week, even if you might get a bit of stick along the way. It is so different and unique, it’s got a feel of a practice match.
“It is very, very difficult. It’s better than nothing but without the supporters, for me, the spectacle is not enough.
“The number of times it’s been said about Newcastle now where it’s a bit boring. I watch it week in, and week out and I watched it last night and the night before and I understand because it just doesn’t look the same.
“Without that real spectacle of a big, noisy St James’ Park or Old Trafford or the Emirates, the certain beauty of watching a game of football even live on the telly is not the same as far as I’m concerned.”
According to Bruce, another negative aspect of fans being kept away from grounds is a lack of urgency in tight moments, which he believes may have tilted the balance away from the home side.
He added: “When you’re 1-1 against Manchester United and you’re trying to get the winner with five minutes to play, the fans play their part then and give you that little bit of adrenaline.
“That’s why teams win at home more than they do away from home, usually. There’s no evidence of that at the minute. In fact there’s no advantage in being at home. We’ve found it the other way.
“Up until the lockdown our home form stacked up, it was always a difficult place to come and play at Newcastle because of the way the supporters are.
“The hostility (towards the visiting teams), the way they are has certainly helped Newcastle over the years. Of course we miss them, badly.”