Why Steve Bruce’s Newcastle appointment is the latest insult to Toon Army
Background image: Richard Humphrey, CC BY-SA 2.0
After allowing Rafael Benitez to walk three weeks ago, Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley bore the brunt of fans’ criticism, a role which the British billionaire has made his own since taking over in 2007. Any right-minded person would have believed it impossible to disappoint and irritate Magpies supporters more than what’s already been done. Well, he’s only found a way.
Yesterday morning, Newcastle announced Steve Bruce as manager. The Englishman left Sheffield Wednesday after five-and-a-half months in charge to sign a three-year deal at St James’ Park. His excitement was evident when saying: ‘This (Newcastle United) is my boyhood club and it was my Dad’s club, so this is a very special moment for me and my family.’
Unfortunately for him, the Toon Army is less than impressed. Within minutes of his arrival, #BruceOut was trending on Twitter.
This is just one of Ashley’s dispiriting decisions in a long list. The 54-year-old has never endeared himself in fans’ eyes. He rarely dips into his wallet to improve the squad, deciding instead to buy on the cheap, then sell those players on for a profit. Already this summer, the Magpies have lost frontman Ayoze Perez, who joined Leicester City for £30 million. Is using that money to make a marquee signing of their own likely?
At least with Benitez at the helm supporters could retain a little optimism. The Spaniard worked wonders on a tight budget, securing two consecutive mid-table finishes. Bruce’s appointment squashes any remaining hope, replacing it with dread.
My top 5 #NUFC managers of the last 10 years
2. Hughton (permanent)
4. Hughton (interim)
5. No one (1st July - 15th July '19)
Another route was needed. Following Benitez’ departure, I wrote ‘6 contenders as the next Newcastle United manager’. Of those, five would have been better picks than Bruce.
Steven Gerrard will make a great Premier League boss. This past season, his first in management, the former England international demonstrated genuine passion while guiding Rangers to a second-place finish. Bruce’s demeanor is no match.
Two former Arsenal stars had the acumen to succeed Benitez. Mikel Arteta’s reputation has soared working as Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City. Similarly, Patrick Vieira is on the up. While managing New York City and now Nice, the Frenchman has proven he can work at a higher level. Bruce doesn’t have either’s forward-thinking.
If Ashley wanted a more experienced man, reports suggest Claudio Ranieri was interested. The Italian is jobless after leaving Roma in May. His appointment may have raised a few questions, despite leading Leicester City to the title, but not nearly as many as what Bruce’s has.
Perhaps the most promising contender, Roberto Martinez was, for a short time, bookmakers’ favourite to take over at St James’ Park. The Catalan-born is currently on a mission with super-talented Belgium. His philosophy, as well as resume, far exceeds that of Bruce.
Newcastle have got what they’ve got. A yes-man, maybe. Some reports state the only man as ten potential candidates thought better of working under Ashley.
Bruce does have some redeeming qualities. His 21-year managerial career includes four Premier League promotions, two apiece at Birmingham and Hull City. He was also a highly decorated player, winning three top-flight titles as Manchester United’s centre-back.
All that, though, is overshadowed by Bruce having once managed the Magpies’ biggest enemy, Sunderland. While there, he said: 'Managing Newcastle has never been my dream.' Most Toon fans will never forgive him.
Edward Reay, a lifelong Newcastle supporter, is among those who can’t hide their anger. ‘What is Mike Ashley thinking? Employing somebody who has already managed Sunderland. The Toon Army will not like that. He (Bruce) will not get any support from the fans. Being a Geordie himself, he should know all this.’
For Edward and countless others like him, the best they can hope is their side treads Premier League water until a takeover occurs. In recent times, various media outlets have reported both Peter Kenyon and the Bin Zayed Group are potential buyers.
As things stand, it’s difficult to foresee a positive outcome. Off the pitch, Ashley is digging his heels in. On it, Newcastle were hammered 4-0 yesterday by Wolves, in the pre-season Asia Trophy. Once the campaign begins proper, Bruce will struggle to emulate Benitez’ performance. He’s neither an inspired nor a long-term choice.
Still, things could be worse. Sam Allardyce claims he turned down a return to Tyneside last week.