Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce has been in the firing line from supporters for many months now. Apathy towards his team selection and playing style – along with his association with former owner Mike Ashley as his own appointment – has meant that Bruce has never quite managed to win over the Tyneside faithful.
The club’s recent takeover has also heightened speculation over his future, with the new Saudi Arabian-backed owners thought to be planning a managerial replacement in the coming weeks.
The difficulty for the new ownership at St James’ Park is to convince a top manager to drop down and assume the helm of a side that looks very much destined for relegation. Many Premier League pundits believe Newcastle’s squad has the look of a top-end Championship side rather than a top-flight team. Such has been the lack of investment from former owner Ashley.
Football pundit Tom Love, who analyses all aspects of the Premier League to publish value football tips across the EPL and beyond, rightly said in his recent preview of Newcastle’s league game with Spurs that the atmosphere at St James’ Park would be “frenzied” for their first game under new ownership.
Despite the “renewed verve and optimism” since the announcement of Mike Ashley’s departure, the fact remains that the Magpies are in a relegation dogfight.
Former Premier League midfielder Charlie Adam believes a new manager “won’t make a difference” to the current Magpies squad as there is “too long until the transfer window”. It is true that the Newcastle squad urgently requires reinforcements.
Defensively, they are porous and unable to keep clean sheets and in attack they rely too heavily on Callum Wilson who has a questionable fitness record. BBC pundit Danny Murphy believes the loan market could be the way forward for a new manager in January, with the carrot of permanent contracts to loanees if they can retain Newcastle’s Premier League status.
With a relegation battle likely come January, who will the Magpies’ new ownership deem as a sensible and realistic replacement for Steve Bruce? Although the club could likely afford the ‘greats’ like Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, there’s no way the club is in the right condition for these top coaches to consider the role.
Former AFC Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is currently the bookmakers’ favourite to replace Steve Bruce. Having rejected the advances of Glasgow Celtic in the summer, Howe remains a free agent and would surely relish the chance of managing in the Premier League again. One of the most highly rated English managers, Howe plays a high-energy style of football that could resonate with the Geordie faithful. The only question mark on Howe is whether he’s got the ‘pull’ to recruit the marquee players that Newcastle fans crave.
Belgium’s national coach Roberto Martinez is also thought to be at the top of the list of Steve Bruce’s potential successors. The Spaniard has impressed at the helm of Belgium’s most talented generation of footballers. Furthermore, having managed with Wigan and Everton in the past, he knows the Premier League inside out. He is well-respected in European football and, like Howe, plays an attractive style of football.
Former Chelsea and Derby County boss Frank Lampard is also looking for the right opportunity to get back into football management. He would be the ‘marquee’ appointment that some Magpies fans crave. Whether he would be the right man for a relegation battle is up for debate. It’s interesting to see Chelsea’s new boss Thomas Tuchel turn the Blues into genuine title contenders with the same players Lampard had at his disposal.
Graeme Jones could be the low-key yet savvy option for the Magpies. Jones has been an able assistant to the likes of Roberto Martinez, Darren Moore, Jason Tindall and Steve Bruce. Jones is considered a forward-thinking, progressive coach and even assisted England boss Gareth Southgate during the EURO 2020 finals. Jones could be appointed on a caretaker basis until the summer, with the carrot of keeping the club up and potentially securing a permanent contract at St James’ Park.
Whoever the new owners employ for life after Steve Bruce, they face one of the biggest tasks in football – managing the expectations of the fanbase and local media whilst milking a silk purse from a sow’s ear on the pitch.