WHEN it comes to the European Super League, and the possible disbanding of European club football as we know it, the 14 Premier League clubs outside the so-called ‘Big Six’ have won a notable battle. Over the next few weeks and months, however, Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce claims it is imperative they do not become distracted and ultimately lose the war.

One of the craziest weeks in the history of English football will end today when Newcastle head to Anfield to take on one of the architects of a scheme that threatened to rip the game apart, but which was sunk within 48 hours of drama, protest and humiliating climbdowns.

Liverpool, like the rest of the ‘Big Six’, have spent the last couple of days attempting to apologise for their actions and repair the fractured relationship with their fans. Today’s game will be played behind-closed-doors, but it is expected that banners will be unfurled outside Anfield criticising Liverpool’s owner, John W Henry, for the reckless way in which he was willing to sell the club’s heritage down the river.

Liverpool’s withdrawal from the European Super League helped kill the proposal within a couple of days of its creation, but Bruce does not expect this week’s events to be the end of the matter. The Premier League remains fearful of what the ‘Big Six’ will plan next, with their owners’ frustration at what they perceive to be a lack of fair financial reward remaining unaddressed.

“We’ve got to guard against it coming back because this thing must have been rumbling on for years,” said Bruce. “We must guard against it and make sure this threatened breakaway doesn’t happen. We’ll let the Premier League deal with that – they’re more intelligent people than I am – but we have to guard against it, that’s for sure.

“I hope they’ve learned from their mistakes. They must have been shocked at what happened so quickly to shut it all down. Let’s hope they’ve all learned – but now, the Premier League has to protect itself and guard against this happening again because this thing must have been rumbling on for years for it to have got to that stage.”

Bruce spent the vast majority of his playing career at Old Trafford playing for one of the ‘Big Six’, and like a number of his former team-mates, his links to Manchester United meant he was even more disappointed at their role as one of the ringleaders of the proposed breakaway.

The Newcastle boss was delighted to see his former club fall flat on its face, and feels this week’s events prove that even a club as big as Manchester United cannot afford to ignore the views of its hardcore supporters.

“Thankfully, the big six have taken a slapping, haven’t they? It’s been quite remarkable,” he said. “I’ve never seen it so quick, the outcry against it, and it was pretty obvious to everyone concerned that we weren’t going to accept it, which was terrific.

“I’m a little bit biased because I played in the lower divisions for years before I got my break, and if it wasn’t for those lower divisions, I might not have got a break. I’m all for the pyramid in this country and the way it works.

“I’m all for the reaction of the supporters. How often have we spoken about the supporters being so important, especially during the pandemic? The supporters have been heard, and rightly so. To bring it down, and bring it down so quickly, fair play to all the supporters who rallied behind it.”

While Liverpool could well be distracted by off-field events this lunchtime, Newcastle will be focused on trying to claim what would be a first win at Anfield since April 1994, when goals from Andy Cole and Rob Lee secured a 2-0 success.

“There have been some unbelievable games against them down the years, but unfortunately we haven’t won many, that’s the problem,” said Bruce. “We haven’t won there in 25, 27 years or something like that, but let’s hope it’s our day.”

Newcastle (probable, 3-4-2-1): Dubravka; Fernandez, Clark, Dummett; Murphy, Shelvey, S Longstaff, Ritchie; Almiron, Saint-Maximin; Joelinton.