Newcastle manager Bruce awaits his fate
It’s been a strange week at St James’ Park where the majority of Newcastle fans anticipated the prompt sacking of under-fire manager Steve Bruce by the new Saudibacked consortium.
But Bruce is still supervising training sessions, and the new owners say Bruce will still be in the dugout for tomorrow’s big match against Tottenham.
It will be a particularly significant match for Bruce as it will mark his 1,000th game as a manager.
It appears that Newcastle’s new chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan of Saudi Arabia isn’t comfortable with sacking Bruce before a new manager is ready to take over.
Front-runners amongst the bookmakers, Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers and Everton’s Rafa Benitez, have made it clear they are committed to their present clubs.
All sorts of names have been touted as Newcastle’s new manger, but it may take longer than originally anticipated.
Although Bruce will stay in charge tomorrow, it is almost certainly only a stay of execution at best.
Fans won’t be happy he is there because they want a complete break from former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley who has finally sold the club after 14 generally miserable years.
Bruce’s unpopularity with the fans is not just his association with the unloved Ashley, although it plays a large part.
Newcastle supporters claim Bruce is simply not good enough, with no wins this season and just seven victories in his last 34 games.
The 60-year-old Bruce is experienced enough to know what was coming.
Last week, he commented: “I want to continue. I’d like to show the new owners what I can do. But you have to be realistic and they may well want a new manager.”
Assuming he is eventually fired, Bruce will be adequately compensated of course, but for him that is not really the point.
As a Geordie himself, he has always supported Newcastle and it must really hurt being rejected by the fans. The regular chants of “We want Bruce out” must be hard to take.
At least, he hasn’t had a cabbage thrown at him, something he experienced in his final days as manager of Aston Villa in 2018.
It prompted Bruce to comment: “It sums up the society we are in at the moment. There is no respect for anyone.”
Bruce had a successful playing career as a central defender, highlighted by a nine-year stint at Manchester United during which he won three Premier League titles. He also scored a handy 36 goals for United.
Despite impressive club performances, he never played for England.
He had an interesting relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson. Bruce called him the “toughest, meanest competitor I have ever met. To be any use to him, you have to win.”
He has since managed 11 clubs beginning with Sheffield United in 1998 and later won promotion to the Premier League for Birmingham and Hull.
While the post of manager at Newcastle is not quite a poisoned chalice, it’s not far off.
The list of managers that have either been booted out or have left of their own accord over the past 15 years is far too long.
Among the managers Newcastle have gone through since Graeme Souness was sacked in February 2006 are Glen Roeder, Sam Allardyce, Kevin Keegan, Joe Kinnear, Alan Shearer (caretaker), Chris Hughton, Alan Pardew, John Carver, Steve McClaren, and Benitez.
The frustration of Newcastle fans is understandable.
They have been told time and again to be “patient”, but the last time they won anything significant domestically was the FA Cup back in 1955 when they beat Manchester City 3-1 thanks to the legendary Jackie Milburn.
That was Newcastle’s third FA Cup final win in five years. How times have changed.
More recently, but still uncomfortably long ago, Newcastle made it to the Cup final in 1998 and 1999 but lost both games 2-0 to Arsenal and Manchester United respectively.
Their last league title was 94 years ago, back in 1927. Now that’s pushing “patience” to the limit.
However, things are definitely changing now. But once again the fans will need to show patience and not expect too much to start with.
Newcastle are not going to immediately turn into world beaters no matter how many stars they can attract.