His unveiling has angered large swathes of Newcastle fans who don’t want him near their club but Mike Ashley may have found his managerial equivalent in Steve Bruce.
Two men with a rich history of broken promises, seemingly impervious to criticism and who, based on past performance, are extremely unlikely to advance the cause of Newcastle United football club.
Despite the bulk of his playing days coming under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson during the Scot’s 27 year stint at Manchester United, Steve Bruce has struggled to make any one club his home during his managerial career, flitting from club to club in a bid to climb the footballing ladder.
His longest spells came at Birmingham and Hull, who he managed for a collective ten years and 471 games of a 20 year and 904 match career. It is those clubs where he also achieved the bulk of his success in the dugout, achieving four promotions and an FA Cup final. However, it is the failures and early departures that truly punctuate Bruce’s managerial record.
He resigned from his first job, at Sheffield United, after a single season and left his position at Wigan within two months to take over at Crystal Palace, a more attractive role. Ambition got the better of him once again three months later when he decided that Birmingham would be another another upgrade, despite Palace being top of the league at the time.
Bruce managed Sunderland, despite having been brought up as an apparently passionate Newcastle fan, and Aston Villa, despite his ties to Birmingham. His initial role at Sheffield United wasn’t enough to put him off taking his previous position as manager of Sheffield Wednesday in January. He was even allowed to take the first month of that job off as he was on holiday in the Caribbean, watching England play the West Indies.
Their faith in him was poorly repaid though when he resigned earlier this week after managing just 18 games over the first six months of a three year contract, before Newcastle swiftly announced him as manager. The announcement has incensed Sheffield Wednesday who subsequently released a statement clarifying their distaste with a compensation package yet to be agreed.
Such behaviour is, naturally, par for the course for Mike Ashley, whose staggering indifference to the tsunami of hatred towards him by the Toon Army faithful has been apparent for some time.
He has mistreated several club legends during his tyrannical reign, including Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer and, new cult hero, Rafa Benitez. One consistency among departing coaches is claims of broken promises regarding transfers as well as intimations that they were made to work with their hands tied behind their backs.
Benitez was widely acknowledged to have worked wonders during his time at St. James Park whilst operating on a shoestring budget. Yet despite the fans clamouring for the Spaniard to be given a new contract and a guarantee over the funds required to improve the team, he was allowed to walk out the door. It has been the final straw for many and, with the season just a matter of weeks away, 12,000 season tickets allegedly remain unsold.
The only winners in this appointment are Steve Bruce himself, walking out on yet another club for a scarcely deserved promotion, and Mike Ashley who appoints a yes man who is also, presumably, a cheaper hire than his infinitely more popular predecessor.
As an outsider with a fondness for Newcastle, it’s tough to know which outcome to root for. Success for Bruce would improve Mike Ashley’s chances of selling the club yet would also vindicate the appointment. On the other hand, it would be undeniably entertaining to see Bruce and Ashley flounder as the club slide into the Championship, though that would also extend Ashley’s stay and prolong the suffering of the fans.
All in all, Ashley and Bruce are a marriage made in heaven, two divisive and unpopular figures who deserve one another. Meanwhile, the Newcastle fans simply deserve better.