The Steve Bruce blueprint for success at Newcastle United
Steve Bruce is set to be announced as the new Newcastle United Manager on Friday according to the media.
Rafa Benitez having moved on after over three years at the club, trying in vain to persuade Mike Ashley to help him fulfil the club’s potential.
So how will the new man tackle the job?
Here are the Steve Bruce 10 steps to success at St James Park…
Finding the right right-hand man.
After completing his oath of allegiance to the Sports Direct leader Mike Ashley, Bruce’s first job will be to put together his back-room team that he believes can continue the glory days of consecutive mid-table finishes to Sports Direct United.
There is no doubt that Bruce will be looking to learn as many lessons as possible from Rafa Benitez’ spell with the club, and perhaps the first one, will be to avoid clogging up the backroom staff with too many foreigners who could not possibly understand the traditions of this great sports shop.
Instead, Bruce will look to play it safe and surround himself with local lads, who know the area, know the club and most importantly have already pledged allegiance to Mike Ashley. He certainly won’t be short of options with fan favorites Shola Ameobi and John Carver surely a shoe-ins… and although he may be not be a local, could there even be room for Sports Direct legend Kevin Nolan to join his back-room team? After all he did score a hat-trick against a terribly managed Sunderland team once…
Right back problem
Rafa Benitez put together one of the strongest defensive back lines Sports Direct fans have seen at the club for a while now, however, faults did begin to surface at times last season, especially at right back. As a formidable centre half back in the day, former England B international Bruce will certainly know what sort of full back to bring in that will provide stiff competition for Deandre Yedlin.
Bruce may have his hands tied with a less than generous transfer budget, but he has not garnered a reputation as one of the UK’s best wheeler and dealers for nothing. Ahmed Elmohamady is an obvious candidate, he has worked with Bruce during his hugely successful stints at Sunderland, Hull City and Aston Villa. Currently still at Villa, it will be up to Bruce to persuade the 0-man Sports Direct board to part with a considerable sum of up to two million quid if he is to get his man.
As a natural born leader, Bruce will know just how important the role of the captain is within the dressing room. There is no doubt he is inheriting a star packed squad at Sports Direct and holding on to some of their better players may be a problem. Bruce will be looking to avoid a situation in which Sports Direct lose their captain Jamaal Lascelles to a bigger club, like Watford or Crystal Palace, in the latter stages of the transfer window.
Luckily for Sports Direct, one of Bruce’s best attributes is his organisation. Could he implement a new captain at the club in order to avoid a last-minute transfer window disaster? That would be a smart move from Bruce. However, who could it be?
Rather than show any ambition by spending an obscene amount of money, Bruce will know that the obvious choice is already sitting in the Sports Direct Arena dressing room…Jack Colback.
The two are a match made in heaven. It was Bruce who gave Colback his big chance at Sunderland, and although he hasn’t quite gone on to match Jordan Henderson’s career who came through at a similar time, there is no reason why Colback can’t lead Sports Direct to similar heights to what Henderson has done at Liverpool. Like Bruce, Colback also spent the past couple of seasons in the Championship, so he will be able to relate to Bruce on a professional level.
Of course, the Sports Direct customers may not be happy to see fans favorite Lascelles lose the captaincy, but with Colback being his replacement, having two Geordie lads who love the club managing and captaining the shop, it may be a match made in Sports Direct heaven…
Bringing through the young talent
As a legend at his self-confessed favorite team Man United during the 90s, Steve Bruce knows all too well the importance of having a great youth system. Turned down by Sports Direct United as a boy, Bruce himself is a fine example of the failure of the academy here. Given the fact that the transfer budget may be limited due to the excessive spending during Rafa Benitez’ reign at Sports Direct, there is no doubt he will be looking to address the youth academy issue.
There is already a fine collection of young stars who have the potential to break into the side. The likes of Jamie Sterry (23), Freddie Woodman (22) and Rolando Aarons (23) are all examples of young players that show the system can work.
Getting the fans onside
Arguably the most important task for Bruce is this one. Just how do you get those ungrateful fans on side? Expectations are obviously high. After all, this is a fanbase who expect to be spending hundreds of millions, reaching cup-finals, playing in Europe and challenging for the league title. Bruce will have to temper those expectations and that is where problems may arise.
It is well-known that the fans refuse to accept any individual who was born south of Durham, so the fact that Bruce can claim to be one of them will be a major positive on his part.
As mentioned by Sky Sports’ Pete Graves earlier this week, Bruce is best friends with Alan Shearer. That is important. Really important. Not being best friends with Shearer is arguably where previous managers have let themselves down in their relationship with the fans, but Bruce with his pal Shearer, his thick Daisy Hill accent, and of course his love for a beer and kebab, is surely already onto a winner.
Replace Ayoze Perez
Ayoze Perez was much loved by all fans at Sports Direct United and Bruce faces the unenviable task of replacing him after he was poached by a bigger club in Leicester City. While Bruce would certainly be hoping that he is allowed to reinvest the money received by Perez, he is likely to understand that the money is likely to go directly back to Sports Direct in order to cover the generous loan provided by Mike Ashley after he saved the club from almost certain extinction.
With funds limited then, that may be bad news for Bruce as it rules out expensive options such as Blackburn’s Bradley Dack, Hibernian’s Scott Allan and Gateshead’s Greg Olley.
Like with his backroom staff, Bruce will be looking for an attacking midfielder that not only knows the club well but knows Bruce well too. One option could be Mo Diame, a free agent having been released by his previous club, a transfer fee wouldn’t be required and having worked wonders for Bruce at Hull City, he could be the perfect man to replace Perez at Sports Direct.
Getting the most out of the transfer strategy
Even though most people know the real reason why Rafa Benitez left Sports Direct United was because he is a greedy man who was tempted by big money in China, some press has still been given that critiques the club’s transfer policy. Negative stories from negative sections of the fanbase will be something Bruce will simply have to get used to of course.
The other issue he will have to get used to is adapting to the club’s clever transfer policy of buying cheap young players and selling them on for a higher fee. If there is one thing you can’t criticise Bruce for, it is that he has vast experience at several clubs when it comes to transfers. In fact, Bruce has managed at 10 clubs – you just can’t beat experience like that. There is no doubt that the experiences and scouting prowess he harnessed at big clubs such as Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Wigan, Crystal Palace, Birmingham and Hull, will stand him in a good position to attract promising new talent to Sports Direct.
Having wasted a spectacular £28m on Jonathan Kodjia (15m) and Asamoah Gyan (13m) though, Bruce knows all too well how foolish it is to spend money at a football club, which is why he is the perfect man to work for Mike Ashley’s football club wing of Sports Direct.
A new number nine
If there is one thing Steve Bruce knows about, it is signing top quality number 9s. From Frazier Campbell, to Ji Dong Won, to Nicklas Bendtner, to Sone Aluko, to Yannick Sagbo, to Dame N’Doye, Bruce’s pedigree in this area is second to none.
Sports Direct are in desperate need of a new centre forward, with Salomon ‘dinosaur’ Rondon leaving the club, Dwight Gayle likely to leave for a handsome amount, and key striker Joselu a wanted man in La Liga, it is up to Bruce to find a striker fitting of the famous Sports Direct uniform.
Step forward free agent and resident Geordie Andy Carroll. This would be a spectacular move for Bruce to pull off, given Carroll’s previous stint at the mighty West Ham United, but it would certainly be one that would not only get the natives talking on Tyneside, but would undoubtedly fit perfectly into Bruce’s preferred ‘hoof it and run’ style of football that has proved so effective throughout his managerial career.
Getting the most out of the players available
With only a few weeks of the transfer window left, there isn’t much time for Bruce to bring in many players, so for the moment, he may just have to work with what he has got. Luckily for Sports Direct, Bruce spent the second half of last season harnessing the talent of Sports Direct loanees Achraf Lazaar and Rolando Aarons at Sheffield Wednesday.
Unlike Rafa Benitez who wasted a bucket load of cash at Sports Direct, Bruce immediately got the best out of Lazaar (three Championship starts last season) and it would be like a new signing if he could get the best out of him again on Tyneside. As for Aarons, another young talent who was wasted under Benitez, Bruce will be hoping that his six Championship starts at Sheffield Wednesday last season can propel him into a Premier League star.
Persuading Sean Longstaff to sign for Manchester United
Manchester United are offering twenty-five million pounds for a player that Sports Direct did not have to pay a penny for. An incredible bit of business by Mike Ashley as only a week ago it looked like Longstaff was out of the door. Longstaff is another fine example that Ashley’s strategy works, and although he looked set to leave the club last week, the arrival of Bruce has given Longstaff room for thought.
It is said that Longstaff now wants to stay at the club as he feels he can grow under a brilliant manager like Bruce, having been held back to only nine Premier League appearances under Benitez. For the sake of Sports Direct though, it will be up to Bruce to persuade Longstaff to jump ship.
Results are important of course, but at the end of the day, Bruce will be judged not so much on his results, but on his ability to turn cheap young men into £25 million saleable assets.
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