A defiant Steve Bruce has insisted he will fight to keep his job as Newcastle’s head coach despite fevered speculation that he will be replaced by the club’s new owners.
The 60-year-old will take charge of his 1,000th game as a professional manager when Tottenham visit St James’ Park on Sunday in the first fixture since Amanda Staveley’s Saudi-backed consortium completed its £305million takeover.
Speaking after seeing Leicester counterpart Brendan Rodgers, former Magpies boss Rafael Benitez, Rangers’ Steven Gerrard and Brighton’s Graham Potter all distanced themselves from a potential vacancy on Tyneside after being heavily linked with Bruce’s job, the former Manchester United defender signalled his intention to battle on and dismissed suggestions he was only hanging on for compensation.
He said: “Who wouldn’t want to try? I’m not going to give up the hope of it. Who wouldn’t want this job now going forward, the way it is, the way it looks in the future? Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to manage Newcastle?
“Certainly I would and I’m sure there’s hundreds who’d want to do the same thing. There are exciting times ahead for the club, that’s for sure.
“It’s not all about money with me, not at all. I want to be the manager of Newcastle – that’s not going to change.”
Bruce has spent much of his time since replacing Benitez at St James’ in July 2019 battling his critics, but having fought his way to the top level as a player and survived in management for more than two decades, he is not about to throw in the towel now.
He said: “I’ll never give up that, that’s something in me, maybe because of being born and bred here. I wasn’t going down the shipyards, that’s for sure. That’s still in me.
“I played 950-odd as a player. I’ve been involved 43 years on the trot since I was a kid, I’ve won every domestic medal there is a few times over.
“What you cry for is a little bit of respect at times, just a little bit of respect at times and have a bit of dignity about you. No matter how difficult it’s become, that’s what I’ve tried to put in place.”
Less than an hour before Bruce, who met Staveley and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi on Monday and was told to carry on until he heard different, was due to face the media, the club confirmed he would be in charge against Spurs.
In a statement aimed at dissenting supporters, Staveley said: “We have had an extremely busy week reviewing the business and getting to know people and it is imperative that we continue to be patient and considered in our approach.
“Change does not always happen overnight, it demands time and that we follow a carefully considered plan and strategy.
“We met Steve and the players on Monday and have given them the time and space this week to focus on preparing for what is a very important game on Sunday.
“Steve has been very professional in our dealings with him and he and his coaching team will take the team on Sunday.
“If we make any changes going forward, Steve will be the first to know but, in the meantime, we wish him the best of luck in his 1,000th match as a manager and will be joining you in getting right behind the team.
“Thank you for the warm welcome you have given us. We can’t wait to be at St. James’ Park with you.”
Newcastle will launch a new era amid accusations that the club’s capture by a consortium in which Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has an 80 per cent stake is a “sportswashing” exercise designed to deflect attention from the Middle East nation’s human rights record despite assurances of separation between PIF and the state.
Amnesty International UK’s CEO Sacha Deshmukh told the PA news agency: “Whatever the result on Sunday, we wish Newcastle fans and their team well, but we remain deeply concerned about how our football clubs are being used for sportswashing.
“Football clubs being purchased for the purpose of trying to distract from serious human rights violations isn’t confined to Newcastle, and sportswashing isn’t confined to football – but the Saudi takeover has obviously brought the issue of human rights and football governance into sharp relief.
“Despite assurances about a supposed separation from the Saudi state, ownership of St James’ Park is now very much about image management for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his government.”
Asked if he was to remain in post how comfortable he would be with those human rights issues, Bruce said: “Look, as far as I’m concerned, I’m sure people will look into that. That’s for politicians and all the rest of it to decide on that.
“It’s a great thing for the club of Newcastle and for me, the city too. I’ve seen the transformation in Manchester – not just for the football club, but for the city too – and I hope for the area and for the people and the supporters that there are exciting times ahead.”