Liverpool's Andy Robertson has taken aim at Steve Bruce's detractors, with many viewing Newcastle United's appointment of the veteran manager as a step back for a club already struggling to keep pace with fellow Premier League sides.
The Magpies were promoted back to England's top flight at the first time of asking under the stewardship of Rafa Benitez back in 2017, with 10th and 13th-place finishes following, despite a perceived lack of investment in the squad.
With Benitez having now left for Dalian Yifang in the Chinese Super League due to disagreements with the club's board over plans for the future, however, few expect Newcastle – who have yet to make any summer signings – to make progress under Bruce.
But Robertson, widely regarded as one of football's finest full-backs, has leapt to the defence of his former manager and is hopeful that the 58-year-old and his coaching staff can be a success at St James' Park and send a message to his doubters.
“There has been a lot of negativity around it and I think that is really unfair for a man who has achieved what he has,” the Champions League winner told the Telegraph. “I hope he gets the backing he deserves.
“I did not think I was ready after only a year in full-time football with Dundee and felt it would be better to wait, but I spoke to Steve for 15 or 20 minutes and he convinced me I was good enough for that level.
“For the two-and-a-half years I was with him he was a different class and helped make me the player I am today. So personally, I am delighted for him. Newcastle is a huge club and I hope he does well – not against us, obviously – but in every other game.”
Bruce will be hoping to move on quickly from a 4-0 defeat to Wolves in his first pre-season match in charge, with a second Premier League Asia Trophy match-up with West Ham on Saturday.