Newcastle United manager

The level of criticism aimed at Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce this season is unfair, insists Alex McLeish.

Speaking to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the manager of Scotland luntil last year opened up about his ties with Bruce and said that the humbling League Cup exit at the hands of Championship Brentford is the exception that proves the rule in terms of United’s season.

Newcastle were eliminated at the quarter-final stage after a 1-0 loss on Tuesday evening despite naming a full-strength side.

Had they won, the Magpies would have reached their first semi-final since 2005.

But McLeish still sees plenty of reasons for St James’ Park fans to be optimistic, with Newcastle in 12th place and exceeding expectations in the league.

He told Football Insider: “The performances in the Premier League, the position in the Premier League, have been higher than a lot of people expected.

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“He totally deserves the credit for that.

“I know Steve really well, he was a neighbour of mine in Birmingham.

“He’s getting the stick [from fans] for this cup tie and now people are not accepting the fact that he’s in a good position in the Premier League and they’re still getting decent results.”

Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce

Bruce himself was diplomatic about the situation: “After losing to Brentford, I have to accept there are people who will say there has been no progress. I would beg to differ, but I am never going to shy from people who have opinions,” he told the Daily Mail.

Newcastle fans may argue that it would be fairer to assess the club’s trajectory after 3 January, with difficult matches against Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester City to come in that time.

In other news, the Magpies have opened contract talks with their revitalised winger following interest from table-topping Rangers.