Mass hysteria is a condition affecting a group of people which is characterised by excitement or anxiety, irrational behavior or beliefs, or inexplicable symptoms of illness.
It has also become one of Steve Bruce’s go-to responses when the dust has settled on a poor result despite the Newcastle United head coach suspposedly having a thick skin.
Bruce previously insisted that he ‘had to accept’ what was coming his way after the Magpies’ were dumped out of the Carabao Cup by Brentford but, clearly, the 59-year-old was hurt by the criticism.
So much so, before a ball was even kicked against Man City at the Etihad on Boxing Day, Bruce made a point of lashing out at the ‘quite ridiculous’ ‘histrionics’.
It is important to stress that managers have every right to fight their corner – just look at how Bruce’s mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson, used criticism to motivate Manchester United over the years – but this felt like a familiar defence mechanism.
Having admitted that merely keeping Newcastle in the Premier League was his ‘remit’ in his post-match press conference, Bruce later added that ‘some of the mass hysteria’ was ‘unfair’.
It is not often you hear managers speak about ‘mass hysteria’ but Aston Villa supporters and Sunderland fans are certainly familiar with the term.
After Villa claimed just seven points from seven games in 2018, Bruce acknowledged that paltry return ‘opens you up’ but the criticism had ‘turned into mass hysteria’ at ‘a club like ours’. Bruce went as far as to say ‘you can understand why’ Villa had seven managers in as many years because it was ‘the end of the world’ after a ‘couple of bad results’.
A month after Sunderland’s 1-0 Wear-Tyne derby defeat against Newcastle in 2011, Bruce referred to the ‘mass hysteria’ that had ‘engulfed’ the Black Cats and how it taught new signings about ‘how difficult it is to play up here’.
Perhaps, then, it is not a huge surprise that Bruce has now played that card at Newcastle. Inevitably, Bruce’s situation will win support from the usual suspects, whether it is the pundits who feel he has performed above expectations despite sizeable investment or the outsiders who look at the Premier League table and see that Newcastle are seven points clear of the relegation zone.
But, when it comes to those figures who watch Newcastle week-in, week-out, it is it really unreasonable to expect just a little bit more from the Magpies?
This is a resilient group of players and Bruce deserves credit for fostering a spirit within the camp that no metric can truly quantify.
Bruce has also had to deal with a brutal COVID-19 outbreak of late and while the Newcastle boss has been keen not to use that as an excuse, it can’t have been easy to learn that his players and staff were vomiting, dealing with painful sores and feeling…
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