To a backdrop of supporter unrest and seemingly endless upheaval the appointment of Steve Bruce as Newcastle United’s new manager was never going to be widely celebrated by the St James’ Park faithful.
Just last month it appeared that a takeover of the club was on the cards which would have meant not only a significant injection of funds for a squad in desperate need of it but also the welcomed exit of Mike Ashley, Newcastle’s widely despised owner after a decade of chronic parsimony and division. Just last month they also happened to have Champions League winner Rafa Benitez at the helm which at least offered some cause for positivity.
Now, the takeover talk has grown stagnant while Benitez has finally grown tired of Ashley’s ways and headed to China. Now it’s back to square one.
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Worse, it’s back to square one but with a manager in charge who has become a by-word for mediocrity. In over twenty years of staring out of dug-outs Steve Bruce has overseen four promotions; two relegations; a trip to a FA Cup final with Hull but not a lot else besides. Certainly in the top flight his record is somewhat uninspiring, with just two top ten finishes and a win percentage of 28.1% while the style of football he favours can be perceived as functional and pragmatic, some might even say nondescript.
All of which has understandably resulted in Newcastle’s long-suffering fan-base responding to the appointment with an air of defeated resignation…
Nine Newcastle United supporter groups have issued a joint statement in response to the appointment of Steve Bruce as NUFC manager.
"Bruce is an unambitious appointment by an unambitious owner, testament to Ashley’s continued mismanagement of Newcastle United Football Club." pic.twitter.com/dvv6bf6662
— Empty For Ashley (@EmptyForAshley) July 17, 2019
And it is not only Bruce’s credentials that have provoked such ire. With the former Manchester United defender on a rumoured £1m a year contract the assumption of Ashley once again indulging in cost-cutting measures has surfaced and unsurprisingly so given that this will be the lowest managerial wage in the Premier League, a sixth of what Benitez was getting.
Then there’s the fact that Bruce’s most expensive ever signing was Asamoah Gyan for a relatively measly – by modern standards at least – £13m. Might this also have been a factor in his selection? It absolutely would be fitting after all that Ashley favours a manager who doesn’t knock his door down every transfer window expecting a fortune at disposal.
Steve Bruce being presented with his transfer budget for this summer pic.twitter.com/CZKa42pyD0
— Adam. (@AdamNUFC_) July 15, 2019
Prior to his friend taking on the onerous task Alan Shearer urged Bruce not to leave his tenure at Sheffield Wednesday, calling the job at hand ‘the toughest and most toxic situation’.
So all round then the latest instalment of the Geordie soap opera is a tragi-farce. Doom and gloom abounds because Steve Bruce is destined to fail and Newcastle are destined to drop.
The video below highlights just how mad Newcastle were to let Ayoze Perez go…
But hold on: while all that is written to this point is incontestable – besides the apocalyptic paragraph above – some balance is required. Because so many of the aspects detailed have a flip-side, as so many aspects do.
The general consensus is that Bruce won’t rock the boat. Surely though this is a good thing, when the club is constantly lurching from chaos to crisis, and Benitez consistently pulled off survival with an arguably inadequate squad? If Bruce can keep the fundamentals Benitez left behind in tact, surely he’d be doing something right.
The general consensus is additionally that Bruce will just do enough. Right now, just enough is fine, with stability on the pitch affording the fans to concentrate on ousting their deeply unpopular enemy in Ashley. It should be remembered too that the seasoned coach has only experienced relegation twice, and that relegation will be a disastrous proposition for the Toon regardless of who resides in the boardroom because a Championship club in freefall is a far less attractive model for perspective purchasers.
This is not a question of what Newcastle fans deserve or what they should settle for. They deserve the world. They’re the best.
But in a horrible circumstance is Bruce the man to propel Newcastle forward, onward and upwards? Probably not. Is he a pair of safe hands, to steer the Toon through the choppy waters of the short-term until a brighter sky is spied? He just might be.