When Steve Bruce steps out of the St James’ Park tunnel on Sunday, he’ll likely feel a bit like an unwanted wedding guest.
After all, Newcastle were believed to have sacked Bruce and named a more glamorous replacement to date. The new club managers had envisioned Rafael BenÃtez or, perhaps, Brendan Rodgers leading the team against Tottenham as a capacity of 52,000 spectators celebrated the start of a much-dreamed of partnership with extraordinarily wealthy owners led by Saudi Arabia.
Instead, Bruce has been granted an almost certainly temporary stay of execution and will preside over his 1,000th game as manager, praying that the advent of Newcastle’s Middle Eastern era coincides with a first victory for his side in difficulty.
If the new owners hope he gives an unloved, albeit underrated, manager a dignified farewell, Bruce is clearly poised for the victory that would put two strictly metaphorical fingers in the face of his detractors. . âI would love that, of course I would,â he conceded.
Covid protocols dictate that pre-match Premier League press conferences always take place virtually. Staged on Zoom, they can tend to be flat and dim, but Bruce’s address at the Newcastle training ground on Friday proved to be a particularly brilliant exception.
“It didn’t happen – which you all wanted,” said the 60-year-old, staring at his computer screen. “I’m still here. I tried to keep my dignity but it’s been hard. I hope you guys [journalists] get a slap in the face from your bosses, get some heat. Whoever gave you the information didn’t get it right? You haven’t done your job properly. It was not easy to prepare Sunday with what is going on. What I’m asking for is a little respect no matter how difficult it is. “
Although inadvertently Bruce had instead confirmed his lack of suitability to lead Newcastle’s impending revolution. He previously admitted he expected to be sacked and a statement released Friday by Amanda Staveley, the manager responsible for the day-to-day management of the club, did little to contradict that likelihood.
âChange doesn’t always happen overnight,â she said. “If we make any changes in the future Steve will be the first to know but, in the meantime, we wish him the best of luck in his 1000th game as a manager.”
An almost inevitable sacking was most likely slowed down by a complicated chain of command involving Staveley and fellow British director Jamie Reuben having to get the decisions approved by Yasir al-Rumayyan, the non-executive chairman of Newcastle based in Saudi Arabia.
For his part, Bruce has been suitably reserved about his only meeting with Staveley and her husband, Mehrdad Ghodoussi – which took place at the training ground last Monday. âThere have been some discussions that need to be private,â he said. âIt was a 10 minute casual conversation. They said “continue” and I will continue until I hear otherwise. “
A win over Tottenham may even give him hope against all hopes that the skeptics can be confused. âI’m definitely going to do everything I can to make a fist out of it,â he said. âI’m not going to give up, I’m quietly confident that we will get a result against Spurs. I’m going to have a crack. What manager wouldn’t want to be sitting in my chair now? “
His mood barely improved when a reporter asked him if the generous Â£ 7million payback clause he agreed to with former Newcastle owner Mike Ashley meant he was waiting in private to be fired rather than walk away. “It’s a horrible question, it’s horrible to say that I’m just waiting for my compensation,” Bruce retorted. âI was never about money at all. I want to be the manager of Newcastle.
He admitted, however, that he briefly considered stepping down after finishing 13th in the summer of 2020, but stayed on to secure 12th place last season and hopes to be part of a “monumental change” involving not only footballers from Newcastle embarking on a trophy quest. but hundreds of millions of pounds have been invested in urgent local regeneration projects by Saudi power brokers.
âThey are very good people, they are very honest people,â Bruce said of the owners. âLet’s not forget that it’s a great thing that just happened here, not just for Newcastle United but for the city as well. I’ve seen Manchester’s transformation since taking over Manchester City, so it’s not just about the football club.
A question about Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record has been overlooked. “It’s for politicians,” he said. âBut this recovery is something great for the city, the whole neighborhood and the people who live here. There are some exciting years to come.