Reports by Chronicle Live over the weekend claimed Giovanni van Bronckhorst would be interested in replacing Steve Bruce, but Mike Ashley could set Newcastle United up to fail in their quest for Premier League survival by hiring the former Guangzhou R&F head coach.
Van Bronckhorst reluctantly stood down from his role at the Chinese Super League outfit in December to be closer to his family after one year in charge, with the pandemic previously meaning he could not see his relatives.
Newcastle are not yet claimed to have reached out to any potential alternatives with Bruce still safe in his position at St. James’ Park, despite the Magpies sitting just two points clear of the relegation zone exiting the international break.
Ashley is alleged to be keen on giving Bruce every opportunity to turn the ship around and save the Toon, and is hopeful of avoiding having to pay in excess of £4m in compensation should Newcastle decide to fire the 60-year-old.
But that has not stopped out-of-work managers from considering the St. James’ Park hotseat for their return to the game, with Van Bronckhorst and ex-AFC Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe both open to taking on the challenge.
Howe is noted to be looking for the right fit after leaving the Vitality Stadium last August and has also been linked with the vacant Celtic position, though he would consider being reunited with former forwards Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser on Tyneside.
Van Bronckhorst would be keen to hear what Newcastle have to say, as well, two years after United opted to appoint Bruce over the former Arsenal and FC Barcelona forward as Rafa Benitez’s successor.
The Dutchman was very keen on the Magpies job in 2019, when Chris Wilder – who left Sheffield United by mutual consent earlier this month – also had admirers at St. James’ Park.
Ashley may soon change his position on Bruce’s tenure and begin to assess potential alternatives if Newcastle’s form does not show any signs of improvement, with United facing Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday to begin a tough end-of-season run.
But Ashley opting to fire Bruce and appointing Van Bronckhorst in hopes of keeping Newcastle in the Premier League could prove ineffective, as the 46-year-old may not be cut out for the challenge.
While Van Bronckhorst admitted last year that it would be a “dream” to return to the Premier League and perhaps manage Arsenal, his former Rangers teammate Ronald de Boer suggested the Gunners gig would be too big of a challenge for the two-time FA Cup winner.
“I think Gio would be a great fit in Scotland with Rangers,” De Boer said, via quotes by The Scottish Sun in 2019. “I also believe there could be something for him at his former club Arsenal, where he is highly thought of.
“Perhaps not as a manager, maybe as a coach. He would have a good chance of that.”
The Chinese Super League outfit were defensively suspect throughout his tenure, with the Blue Lions keeping only five clean sheets and conceding three or more goals on eight occasions across all competitions – including shipping seven in his final game in charge.
Losing 7-6 to Shandong Taishan on the final day of the 2020 season ensured Guangzhou ended the year in the relegation play-off positions, with the second-worst goal difference of the eight sides in their division at minus-14.
West Bromwich Albion (minus-37) and Sheffield United (minus-34) are currently the only Premier League sides to boast a poorer goal difference than Newcastle (minus-20), despite Bruce’s defensive style.
So expectations of Van Bronckhorst – who former Feyenoord Director of Football Martin van Geel claimed was “more than fantastic” in Rotterdam – coming in and steadying the ship would be minimal if the axe were to fall on Bruce.