Newcastle head coach Steve Bruce has launched a passionate defence of his record after insisting his longevity cannot be down to pure luck.
The Magpies ended their wait for a victory at the 12th attempt in all competitions on Saturday when they turned in arguably their best performance of the season to win 2-0 at Everton.
Bruce, who continued to enjoy the support of owner Mike Ashley throughout the drought, had found himself facing a tide of criticism, and while he knows the improvement at Goodison Park will count for little if it is not repeated at home to Crystal Palace on Tuesday evening and beyond, he was in defiant mood as he assessed the last few weeks.
He said: “I can accept criticism; it’s when it becomes ridicule I find it difficult. I’ve been in it a long, long, long time and it all can’t be just luck that I’ve been around the block that many times.
“Experience helps you, but no doubt it’s been very, very difficult, but you’ve got to keep your self-respect and your dignity and believe in what you’re trying to put on.”
Bruce’s critics were quick to attribute the success at Everton to the addition of former Bournemouth and Belgium coach Graeme Jones to his coaching staff, although it is understood he had taken just a single session ahead of the game.
Asked for his response, Bruce, who vowed to do things “his way” after a dreadful 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United on January 12, said: “Inspired choice?”
He added: “Since that awful night against Sheffield, I said then that we were going to change.
“We’ve had a good performance and of course Graeme has been here 48 hours and has had a little bit of an input into what we are trying to achieve.
“I’ve always been a bit reluctant because the players we’ve got at the club, but certainly I think they’re now starting to buy into it – and some would say after 18 months, they should.
“But this is the way forward, this is the way we will be or will try to be.”
Bruce, who could be without skipper Jamaal Lascelles and winger Ryan Fraser against Palace as a result of injury and illness respectively, was in lighter mood when asked about reports in France that he was pursuing an interest in Paris St Germain midfielder Idrissa Gueye as the transfer deadline loomed.
He said with a smile: “No, Neymar was the one we were looking at, but that didn’t quite happen.”