Steve Bruce has finally been sacked as head coach of Newcastle United by their new Saudi-backed owners, nearly two weeks after they bought the club.
The consortium knew that to leave him in post for last Sunday’s home game with Spurs risked spoiling the carnival atmosphere inside St James’ Park, yet they allowed him to complete his 1,000th career game in management, which ended in a 3-2 defeat by Tottenham.
Bruce is set to pocket £8million in compensation as he departs his boyhood club. Graeme Jones is now in temporary charge while a new boss is recruited. His first game in charge will be a trip to Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The two managers didn’t shake hands at full-time in Madrid following Liverpool’s 3-2 win
The group always intended to part company with Bruce, but only after arriving on Tyneside last week and seeking the opinion of those already on the ground did they realise the negative impact his presence could have.
Bruce’s departure is the first major football decision made by the Saudi-led consortium that now owns the club, after their £305million takeover was approved by the Premier League and confirmed on October 8.
A club statement released on social media on Wednesday morning read: ‘#NUFC can confirm that Steve Bruce has left his position as head coach by mutual consent. The club would like to place on record its gratitude to Steve for his contribution and wishes him well for the future.’
Steve Bruce has been sacked as Newcastle manager by the club’s new Saudi-backed owners +13
Steve Bruce has been sacked as Newcastle manager by the club’s new Saudi-backed owners
Bruce’s axing is the first big decision new director Amanda Staveley (pictured with husband and fellow director Mehrdad Ghodoussi) and the new Saudi-led consortium have made +13
Bruce’s axing is the first big decision new director Amanda Staveley (pictured with husband and fellow director Mehrdad Ghodoussi) and the new Saudi-led consortium have made
Bruce said in the same statement: ‘I am grateful to everyone connected with Newcastle United for the opportunity to manage this unique football club.
‘I would like to thank my coaching team, the players and the support staff in particular for all their hard work. There have been highs and lows, but they have given everything even in difficult moments and should be proud of their efforts.
‘This is a club with incredible support, and I hope the new owners can take it forward to where we all want it to be. I wish everyone the very best of luck for the rest of this season and beyond.’
New club director Amanda Staveley and her advisors have a shortlist within a longer list of names identified as his potential replacement, but that appointment could take some time to finalise.
Former Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre is one of those under consideration, as well as Rangers boss Steven Gerrard. Brendan Rodgers was another name mentioned but the Leicester manager is holding out for the Manchester City job in 18 months’ time.
Favre, 63, has been out of work since leaving Dortmund last December and turned down an offer from Crystal Palace in June, but it is thought he is now ready to return to management.
Assistant head coach Jones has been put in temporary charge. He was part of England’s Euro 2020 coaching staff led by Gareth Southgate over the summer.
Sources told Sportsmail last week the new owners have spoken to several in and around the club and know that an immediate change in management would aid the team, who are winless and second bottom of the Premier League table.
Bruce, 60, is now owed an £8m pay-off for Newcastle terminating his contract early. He signed a three-year deal when he first joined the club in 2019 under mike Ashley’s ownership, but the now former Magpies boss insisted that his deal ran on for longer than the end of this campaign.
After visiting the club’s training ground for the first time last week, Staveley’s priority is identifying key appointments in positions such as chief executive and sporting director, as well as manager.
Only then can they press ahead with solid recruitment plans for the January transfer window – Newcastle’s first chance to show their new financial muscle to the football world.
And with squad places at a premium — the 25 slots are already filled — there is the distinct possibility of several players being left out for the rest of the season. That prospect could well incentivise some to up their performances before the new year.
Meanwhile, managing director Lee Charnley could stay on for slightly longer than the anticipated brief handover after meeting with the new owners.
He has an in-depth knowledge of the club and, while seen by supporters as Ashley’s man, is valued as a good operator.
Magpies fan Bruce was appointed as Newcastle manager in July 2019 following the departure of popular boss Rafa Benitez as head coach.
His time at St James’ Park began with fan revolt due to his history of managing arch-rivals Sunderland in the Premier League, with the Magpies’ recent relegation battles failing to win over supporters during his time in the north East.
Bruce was given some financial backing by Ashley and the Newcastle board, as his high-profile signings included strikers Allan Saint-Maximin, Joelinton and Callum Wilson, who arrived for a combined total of nearly £100m, while young English talents Joe Willock and Jamal Lewis were brought in for £40m for the pair.
No Newcastle manager to have spent more than 12 months at the club has managed a lower win percentage than Bruce.
The former Manchester United captain and defender also had a strained relationship with the club’s players, with Sportsmail revealing several clashes between players earlier this season.
A heated inquest took place in the dressing room following last month’s 4-1 defeat at Manchester United, with Bruce telling midfielder Isaac Hayden — playing at centre back — that he should have done more to prevent Cristiano Ronaldo running off him to score his second goal.
Sportsmail revealed in a special report in September that Bruce fell out with some players. He angered Magpies fans last month when he said he wants to keep the club ‘ticking along’ +13
Sportsmail revealed in a special report in September that Bruce fell out with some players. He angered Magpies fans last month when he said he wants to keep the club ‘ticking along’
Sportsmail were also told there was player resentment at the lack of structure in the training schedule, much like the concerns raised last season over what some felt were excessive days off.
The Newcastle players also felt the training schedule was set to suit Bruce and not the rest of the team.
Bruce also angered Newcastle supporters earlier this year when he revealed his plans for the club were to ‘keep it ticking along’ in the Premier League and not show any ambition to take the Magpies forward.
‘Look, it’s a challenge at the minute,’ he said in September. ‘I’ve said now since I walked through the door two years ago, I’m not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, but I will, with my experience, hope that I can keep the club just ticking along and make sure that the club stays where it is and we maintain our Premier League status.
‘I know for a lot of people – and there’s the frustration – we should be better than that. That’s where we are at the moment and we have been for a while, and that’s everybody’s frustration.
‘I want Newcastle to be at the top of the league, so that frustration is there. But I don’t think about, “Oh, the noise is too bad, walk away, Steve”. That’s not in my nature when it gets tough.’