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Opinion

Is Steve Bruce trying to force Mike Ashley to sack him?

1 month ago
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Despite a humiliating run of only two wins in twenty one Newcastle United matches, Steve Bruce repeatedly refused to resign.

Over the course of four months from mid-December 2020 to mid-January 2021, Newcastle lost 13 games and had six draws, with just the two wins over Everton and Southampton amongst all the misery.

At any number of press conferences the journalists posing the question of whether he accepted he had to quit for doing such an appalling job, Steve Bruce though saying each time it was for ‘others’ to decide and no way he was going to quit.

Both journalists and especially Newcastle United fans pointing to the much reported £4m compensation fee that Steve Bruce would be entitled to, if Mike Ashley sacked him.

As opposed to nothing if he resigned…

Steve Bruce might look daft…but this particular Turkey was making clear that he wouldn’t be voting to miss out on £4m if / when he leaves Newcastle United. Steve Bruce has repeatedly walked out on clubs throughout his management career but usually only when he had a better offer / situation elsewhere, Bruce knows that no other Premier League would touch him and certainly no offer would come in from any club that would match his NUFC wages, never mind make up for the reported £4m windfall if he is given the boot.

The twentieth game of that two wins in twenty one run, was the 3-0 defeat at Brighton, woeful. That was the final match before the March 2021 international fortnight kicked in, if Mike Ashley was ever going to sack his latest patsy it was now / then.

Instead, Mike Ashley and his people put the message out in the media that the owner was backing his man. The alternative spin of course, is why would Ashley trigger a £4m payout to a failing Steve Bruce when no guarantee that any decent self-respecting credible manager would be prepared to work for him, especially at such short notice and with Newcastle deep in relegation trouble.

The fact that any contract offer would almost certainly be kept to a minimum, as Mike Ashley still desperately hopes for the takeover to at last happen in 2021, would then have made it even more difficult (impossible) to get a credible replacement. The thinking being that the Saudi backed bid wouldn’t want a Newcastle manager sitting on a long-term contract, that they would have to sack and compensate, over and beyond the potential up to £4m they would have to pay to sack Bruce, who is currently only contracted for one more year up to summer 2022.

Newcastle United of course have finally won the few more games needed to stay up and with three such woeful clubs at the very bottom, even Steve Bruce has reached safety. The NUFC Head Coach so disconnected from reality that he thinks this has been an achievement to win only five of his last twenty six matches and stumble to a non-relegation spot.

The question now is, what next?

Surprisingly, some of the journalists close to him, especially Luke Edwards of The Telegraph, are now casting doubt on whether Steve Bruce will actually see out the remaining season of his current three year NUFC deal.

For Newcastle fans it would be inconceivable that Steve Bruce would willingly walk away without his massive pay-off, even though quite clearly an overwhelming majority of supporters would love to see it happen. Every poll pointing to fans wanting him out due to Bruce’s ‘style’ and quality of football on the pitch, as well as his ‘style’ off the pitch, the Chronicle poll of 14,000+ fans summing it up, with 95% of them voting Bruce out.

So if Steve Bruce won’t walk away, is the plan to force Mike Ashley into sacking him. To make even the Newcastle United owner realise that there is no other alterative unless he wants to risk / invite disaster?

With the season now coming to a close and Premier League football now confirmed for 2021/22, there are reports that Steve Bruce is insisting on funds to be made available to strengthen the team / squad. Has the worm really turned and what would he do if Mike Ashley doesn’t back him? A very interesting scenario if Bruce was willing to go public as Rafa Benitez did and belatedly point out what a joke the club is under this owner.

Of more pressing concern for Ashley though, must be the creeping realisation of just how many empty seats there are going to be inside St James Park next season.

With the Premier League currently working to a plan of full stadiums allowed as from the weekend of Saturday 14 August when the 2021/22 PL season kicks off, Newcastle United are the anomaly.

Every other Premier League club anticipating a huge appetite from fans for a return to the stands next season, whilst at Newcastle United supporters dreading a continuation of the Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce dream team.

Steve Bruce also of course now imagining a situation of standing on the touchline with tens of thousands of Newcastle fans letting him know how they feel, as opposed to the protective shield he has these last 14 months of empty stadiums.

Only three months before football was forced behind closed doors, Mike Ashley had been forced to hand out 10,000+ free season tickets to fill the massive gaps caused by his ownership and Steve Bruce’s management.

The Mag surveyed Newcastle fans this week and 29% of those who responded said that if able to buy a ticket, they would have paid to go to the Sheffield United match on Wednesday.

However, away from the novelty of going to that one-off match, Newcastle fans also indicated in the survey that only 18% of them would definitely be interested in going next season if Ashley and Bruce both remain.

If nothing significantly changes then it is difficult to see crowds going much above the 30,000 mark. If Mike Ashley had to give away 10,000 free season tickets before the virus impacted on our lives, I think it would now be 20,000+ freebies he’d have to hand out to avoid massive empty spaces around his tat empire adverts.

A lot of fans, especially older people, will still have health worries at coming back into a crowded environment such as a football match. It is outside but there is getting in and out of the stadium, travel there and back etc, plus of course people may have just got out of the habit, as well as fans having had a chance to sit back for 14 months and wonder just why they are paying their cash to Ashley and Bruce. Not forgetting of course that for so many people the virus has produced a significant cash impact, on top of the health issues.

Steve Bruce is certainly not doing anything to help the situation regarding trying to get Newcastle fans back into St James Park next season.

Indeed, you could see his behaviour as quite the opposite and quite possibly part of an attempt to force Ashley’s hand to sack him.

Steve Bruce turned up on Talksport on Monday and rather than trying to get Newcastle fans onside, it was just more of the same nonsense. Bruce talking our club down and pushing the unrealistic fan expectation rubbish and other negatives. The appalling Talksport set-up including Jim White, Simon Jordan and Danny Murphy, so zero chance of any proper debate or challenge to what Steve Bruce was saying.

New NUFC owners would guarantee a full St James Park and a waiting list for season tickets.

Mike Ashley still here and very difficult (impossible?) to imagine a packed stadium.

Whilst it may be difficult to imagine it at this moment in time, if Ashley was to remain, then it could still be possible for St James Park to attract many more supporters next season than you’d predict. Only four years ago in 2016 St James Park was attracting full houses week after week in the Championship (CHAMPIONSHIP!). Rafa Benitez staying on and giving people enough hope that an average of over 51,000 went to home games in the second tier.

With Newcastle United I have come to understand never say never, that things can quickly change and the most unexpected happen – good and bad, including under Mike Ashley.

Ashley is a chancer and a gambler but he also at times shows in his business moves that he can also be very pragmatic. If something desperately needs doing, he will do it, at least sometimes!

The ten thousand free season tickets is just a small example but that is a once only trick you can try to put a sticking plaster on, giving another 10,000-20,000 season tickets away for 2021/22 is something that even Mike Ashley will understand is something that would make a laughing stock, particularly at a time when the other Premier League clubs are likely to be oversubscribed with fans desperate to be back at live football.

Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley have both got what they wanted pretty much so far, Bruce getting a job that he should never ever have been considered for and Ashley getting a Head Coach willing to take the job on his terms as the latest patsy.

The question now is whether in the absence of a takeover happening, Mike Ashley and / or Steve Bruce see a continuation of their dream team partnership at St James Park as something that is only heading for the rocks?

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