Steve Bruce leaves Newcastle United. No sympathy required or sought

Steve Bruce leaves Newcastle United. No sympathy required or sought

Steve Bruce has parted company with Newcastle United. Supporters who have wanted him gone from the moment he arrived can now rejoice. As they did when the club was taken over by a murderer who is Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia. A place where more people are beheaded in public in one day than the number of football clubs Bruce has managed across the past 23 years.

His 1000th game in charge of the Magpies did not go the way he would have wished and, when Spurs took the lead last Sunday, the fans were at it again with their ‘We want Brucie out’ chants. So predictable.

I never believed he would walk out on Newcastle, the club he supported as a boy. Why should he? He’s done a decent job there, whatever the fans who never wanted a former Sunderland manager near St James’ Park will say. If his services are no longer required, then he’s entitled to a severance package. It will be in his contract. Although perhaps not several millions of pounds, That would not be a good look.  Clearly he and the owners have agreed a compensation package for his exit, which inevitably has been labelled as being arrived at ‘by mutual agreement.’  So he’s been sacked.

Steve Bruce will feel that he has unfinished business at the club he loves but, as he said earlier this week, he would do what he felt was best for the club. That’s not always been the case during his long management career.

Bruce is no stranger to walking out on football clubs. Ask the supporters of Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, Hull City Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan Athletic, who he walked out on twice. In 2004, he tried to quit his job at Birmingham City when approached to manage his boyhood club, Newcastle. But the two clubs failed to agree compensation for his services.

At the beginning of 2019, when approached to manage Sheffield Wednesday, the owner appointed and immediately allowed Bruce compassionate leave of one month following the death of his parents. Bruce, officially manager of the Owls by then, flew off to watch England play test cricket in the West Indies. As you do when you are mourning the loss of your parents.

Loyalty has never been a core characteristic when it comes to Steve Bruce and management. He’s always had his eyes trained on the next, usually better paid gig.

When Bruce walked out on Sheffield Wednesday to manage Newcastle following the exit of Rafa Benitez, then owner Mike Ashley tempted him with a £500.000 bonus if he kept Newcastle up that season. He did so. Now the new owners have forked what will be a significant sum to have Bruce leave the club. Paying off a manager they did not hire. But they can afford it and it ought to be a cold day in hell before anyone should feel sorry for them.

steve bruce jokes with Jonny Bairstow

Bruce with cricketer Jonny Bairstow when on ‘compassionate leave’ in the West Indies

Steve Bruce does not need any sympathy. Nor would he seek it. He’s been around long enough to know how it works in football management. But you can be sure of one thing. By far the majority of the media will be on his side.

When you work in sports broadcasting, as I did for 25 years, you can get so close to footballers that they become friends. Sometimes for life. Players who were mates may go on to be managers and while you’re still reporting for newspapers, radio or television. Or producing TV or radio shows. The upside to all that is that you can contact that manager and ask him to come on the show you present or produce. Because they’ve known you for years, perhaps decades, they feel comfortable accepting the invitation. They’re not going to be given a hard time.

But those in the media must remember that they should be prepared to ask difficult questions when the situation demands it. Of people you like. Of friends. If you cannot do so, get someone else to.

I listen to a lot of the sports coverage on BBC Radio 5 live. There’s no truth in the rumour it will be renamed ‘the home of Steve Bruce support.’ Although you could be forgiven for thinking so of late. So biased in favour of their mate are certain broadcasters working for the station. At least one, the very professional Mark Chapman, admits he is biased. Credit to him for owning up to that fact.

I keep hearing pundits and broadcasters saying what a smashing fella Steve is. It is the case that he is very good at staying in contact with journalists he has known over the years and is always open to taking calls from them. There are several he trusts. In that sense, he is old school. When I worked in Fleet Street in the 70’s, certain journalists had excellent relations with particular players or managers and if they told the journo a secret, it was highly likely that it remained that way. Steve Bruce still operates that way. He knows those sports reporters who will not spill the beans regarding anything he tells them in confidence.

Last Sunday I despaired of how commentator Ian Dennis and co-commentator Pat Nevin got carried away with the new owner euphoria that swept through the stadium for the home match against Tottenham. Pat Nevin, an excellent player in his day and an intelligent human being, was so excited he made the mistake of coming out with that nonsense that Newcastle fans “have got their club back.” It’s not their club! They don’t own it. Sorry. Perhaps it would be better if they did.

But, as the BBC is obsessed with balance, I should also say that I was taken by the earlier interview 5 Live conducted with his son. Alex Bruce always speaks well and, not for the first time, he was out there defending his father’s name. Rightly so. Much of what he said I agree with.

Alex Bruce said: “It’s been tough to watch the criticism. He’s finished 12th and 13th. With the players he’s had, I think that’s a very respectable achievement. A lot of things have been said about my dad. He’s done a thousand games as manager. But to see certain people criticise his integrity, his professionalism and his ability as a manager; has he not deserved a crack? He’s never managed a club that’s had proper money.

“He had an owner who wanted to sell the club and not put any money in to it. Dad has been a fall guy. Rafa Benitez was lauded for finishing 12th and 10th. He was called a messiah. Yet Dad’s record is about the same but he’s been battered from the moment he walked in the door. I know what Newcastle means to him. When he was a kid he used to crawl under the turnstiles and stand in the Gallowgate with his dad. He’s always supported the club. So to see the things that have been said about him has been tough. He knows more than anybody that this new ownership needed to happen and, believe me, he’s absolutely delighted that it has, not only for the football club but for the city and the supporters.”

Steve Bruce will get another job. With his property portfolio, the money he’s earned from the game and his latest payout, Brucie is not exactly down to his last shilling.

Who will the murdering Crown Prince of Saudia Arabia appoint as the next manager at St. James’ Park?

The bookies have, as always, been having fun with punters in next manager market for the Newcastle job. It’s a betting market for the gullible. The latest rumours in the press are that Newcastle have approached the out of work Eddie Howe to step in and try to keep the club in the Premier League. Nice chap that he is, I fail to see how Eddie is more likely than Bruce to achieve that. He did a good job in taking Bournemouth up from the Championship but doesn’t strike me as a manager to inspire an average set of players to improve between now and the January transfer window when Newcastle fans are presuming the Saudi Arabia owners will splash cash on new players.

Unibet have the best odds about Eddie Howe taking charge. That’s 6/1. I can’t see it myself. The latest betting market favourite to become the new manager of Newcastle United is Paulo Fonseca at a best price of 21/10. Tomorrow, the bookies may make someone else favourite. They do this in order to tempt punters to bet on more than one option.

As of October 20th, the bookies have Newcastle priced at 2/1 to be relegated and 1/2 to stay up.

Whoever takes the job in October, they have some tough games coming up before they can even think about which players they want to attract to work under him from January. But who on earth will want to go to freezing cold Newcastle in the depths of winter knowing they will be in a relegation fight? Likely players in their 30’s who are seeking one last pay day. What the new owners could also do is bring in younger players on loan from those bigger clubs who have talented youngsters sat around doing nothing. Those clubs will insist on the cash rich Newcastle owners paying the wages of such loan players.

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