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Steve Bruce removal by Mike Ashley won’t impact Newcastle United cashflow – Explained

3 weeks ago
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Back in March a poll of 14,000 Newcastle United fans found that 95% of them wanted Steve Bruce to go.

Six months later, it is difficult to see a similar exercise producing any kind of different result.

Six games into the season and despite four of them at home, not a single win and four defeats, already out of the League Cup and currently sitting in the relegation zone ahead of consecutive away matches.

However, as well as the abysmal result, we have seen the same old failings, with Steve Bruce randomly chopping and changing his team – especially in defence, bewildering tactics (seemingly for the players as well as the fans…), negative set-ups even at home against poor to average sides (Southampton, Leeds).

After over 26 months, it is very hard to see any progress Steve Bruce has made, or indeed, understand exactly what it is that he is trying to do. Well, other than stay in his Newcastle United job, having amazingly been plucked out of the Championship after over two decades of failure as a manager – never winning a single trophy or even finishing in the top nine of the Premier League.

On the back of rumours that Steve Bruce had been given only a few matches to turn things around, the local media responded with their own claims, saying that their understanding was that the NUFC Head Coach wasn’t in any danger of being removed from the job in the foreseeable future, with one of the major reasons that Bruce would be in line for a massive pay-off. The reasoning being that the widely reported £4m+ pay-off Steve Bruce would receive, couldn’t be afforded out of this season’s very tight cash flow.

I’m sorry but I just don’t see this alleged pay-off reason as a valid reason as to why Mike Ashley wouldn’t act and remove Steve Bruce. Yes, I can see why Ashley wouldn’t want to lose Bruce because he is such a willing lapdog for the club’s owner, but I think the pay-off excuse if a red herring.

No doubt some of you are shouting that there’s no way Mike Ashley is willing to hand over a £4m+ pay-off to send Steve Bruce on his way, well I agree, as I don’t believe that this would be the case, even if Bruce was removed from the job.

It has become increasingly the way to go, that when Premier League clubs remove their manager (or Head Coach), instead of giving them a massive multi-million pay-off, they simply put them on gardening leave. Basically, they keep getting their normal wage but are removed from the job and replaced.

This means no massive lump sum pay-off impacting mid-season on the club’s cash flow, with normal pay continuing until either the end of the manager’s contract, or until he gets another job, whichever comes first.

Obviously zero chance of any other Premier League club giving Steve Bruce a job, so Newcastle would have to pay him until the end of his current deal, but financially the club would be no worse off than they are now…

What about the cost of a replacement I hear you shout now, surely that would add to the wage bill if Brucey was sent off to do ‘gardening’ leave on his farm in the north west?

Once again, not necessarily.

If by some welcome miracle Steve Bruce is removed, the massive consensus view of Newcastle fans is that Graeme Jones would then take over, at least in the short-term.

Mike Ashley knows that Jones has built a decent reputation already with fans, even though much of that is due to him simply not being  Steve Bruce…

However, there have been more credible positives, with tweaks in tactics at times credited to the Geordie coach (Graeme Jones, not Steve Bruce…), whilst during matches it has been noticeable that players are far more interested in taking notice of Jones rather than Bruce.

Steve Bruce also recently revealed that in training, he (Bruce) had been in particular overseeing work on the defensive side of NUFC’s game this season, whilst Jones was working on the offensive part. The fact that the defending has ended up an even bigger shambles than the last two years of failings under Steve Bruce (58 and 62 PL goals conceded the last two seasons, compared to 47 and 48 in Rafa’s two PL campaigns), with 13 goals already conceded in only five games, whilst Newcastle have looked far more of a threat up front creating more chances and scoring a decent six goals, also counting in favour of Graeme Jones.

If asked to step up with Bruce on gardening leave, Graeme Jones may well be offered extra cash to do the job as caretaker, but even that would be minimal no doubt under Ashley, five grand a week more, ten grand, whatever, but minimal compared to the overall club finances.

Just as likely though, I could see a scenario where Graeme Jones would even take the caretaker job for zero extra cash, but with the carrot that if he does a decent job (avoiding relegation!) then he could get the job on a permanent basis come the end of the season.

The chance for the 51 year old Geordie to manage the club he supported as a boy, I think even that would be more than enough, just as it was for John Carver previously.

So in this scenario, Mike Ashley could jettison the dead weight that is Steve Bruce being in charge of team affairs, get a more popular candidate in who would have instant support of fans (and no doubt players as well!), far more chance of avoiding relegation, plus it could cost the owner not a penny more! Surely a deal made in heaven for Mike Ashley if he sits down and thinks about it.

As for Steve Bruce needing to be paid beyond this current season, it appears that Mike Ashley still retains major hope of the Newcastle United takeover still going through, even though likely to be nearer the end of this season (and potentially reliant on NUFC staying in the Premier League…), so as far as Ashley would be concerned, more cash for Bruce would simply be somebody else’s worry if / when the club is sold.

If indeed it was the Saudis coming in, they would see it as loose change cutting all remaining ties with Steve Bruce.

This may all seem a little unlikely due to Ashley’s past reluctance to move out useless managers / head coaches in the past BUT even he will have learnt some lessons from allowing Steve McClaren to go on too long, plus if a takeover is dependent on retaining Premier League status that would focus Ashley’s attention even more. You also have a scenario this season where instead of three hopeless relegation certainties as was the case last season, only Norwich this time are looking a likely lame duck.

The ideal time for replacing Steve Bruce with Graeme Jones (or even possibly a more ambitious move for an out of work Eddie Howe) would appear to be after seven PL games when the October international break starts (2 October 2021) or after eleven matches when the November international break kicks off (6 November 2021).

With fears of Newcastle United potentially getting cut adrift unless results improve, the Mike Ashley clock may well be ticking ever more loudly for Steve Bruce, whether or not he hears it coming…

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