Newcastle’s grand vision hit by reality of relegation battle with Steve Bruce’s authority eroded

After a damaging defeat to Tottenham, the Magpies face a dilemma over short and long-term goals since the Saudi takeover

Miguel Delaney
St James’ Park
Monday 18 October 2021 12:22
Saudi owners give Newcastle fans 'hope', but want 'separation' from other issues

During one of the many testing points of Sunday’s game, new Newcastle United chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan again reached for his phone. It’s going to need to be recharged a lot over the next few weeks. The club’s controversial new ownership have a lot of work to do, on and off the pitch.

They could do with some calls being returned.
The Independent has been told of how Amanda Staveley’s husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi attempted to get in touch with one big-name manager last week, only to be given short shrift. The coach, in short, had no interest in working with this Newcastle as it is and was puzzled by the nature of the approach.

Such circumstances were one big reason Steve Bruce was still in charge for Sunday’s match against Tottenham Hotspur, that ended with the ignominy of both ends of the ground singing “sacked in the morning”.

It was impossible not to feel some sympathy for the 60-year-old. Newcastle supporters may find that similar sentiments aren’t extended to their predicament. There was an unmistakable relish from Spurs fans as their team just got at Newcastle so easily, and made them look a rabble.

It was some way removed from the grand vision the Saudi Arabian ownership no doubt have for this team, but it might well delay its realisation.

Newcastle are in real danger of going down – and that’s even allowing for a managerial change and big signings.

The problems in and around the team are multilayered, some of them even more complicated by the takeover.

Most immediately, the purchase has further eroded the diminishing solidity of the side. Bruce’s management warrants some fair criticism but it’s also fair to say that he developed a capacity for a certain doggedness, that has fulfilled the remit of keeping a few teams up.

Much of that was based on an old-school authority that was strengthened among the players at St James’ Park by the knowledge that he was absolutely Mike Ashley’s man. The former owner was never going to get rid of him, so it meant all players pretty much had to get in line.

The water-treading nature of that brought many of its own problems, but also arguably just enough durability to keep staying up.

New Newcastle United chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan (left) and Amanda Staveley prior to kick-off (Owen Humphreys/PA)

It is entirely possible that was already going this season but the takeover has made it certain. Bruce’s authority is gone.

The squad knows he is soon to be discarded. That has fostered greater uncertainty among the players, feeding into such a confused day. It inevitably means focus drops, even if it's subconscious.

There are then the situations of the players themselves. They will know they are almost as dispensable as Bruce. The new owners will ultimately want to upgrade every single one of them – even Allan Saint-Maximin.

So, the club have at least 11 fixtures of that, before the January transfer window opens. These are not the usual ingredients for a good run of form.

Newcastle fans in the Gallowgate End celebrate the opening goal scored by Callum Wilson

And even before you get to the questions of the profile of players that they should want and will in turn actually want to go to Newcastle in January, there is the bigger question of the manager.

This is maybe the most complicated situation, and why the hierarchy need real clarity.

The problem again comes down to that tension between what Newcastle want to be and what they need right now.

Any idealised manager, such as a progressive coach who needs some space and scope to implement a vision, may not fit what they require for a relegation battle. That is all the greater an issue when they evidently lack a football structure around the manager.

Any appointment has to quickly get used to this group, too.

It is possible that the owners end up going for a survival specialist – some people in football have made jokes about things going full circle and Sam Allardyce returning to the club – but even that would create further uncertainty down the line, as they evidently want something more.

Tottenham put the dampener on Newcastle’s party

Ghodoussi, who is said to have become quite excited about getting into the glamour of football wheeling and dealing, would prefer a big name now.

There will be a certain level of expenditure in January, between £50m and £200m.

It is highly likely that they will spend enough to get out of trouble. That’s generally how it works. That was actually something both Bruce and Ashley realised, that the team only needs to be better – or more expensive – than another three.

But it just might involve a fair bit of tension and strained emotions until safety is secured. It similarly isn’t outlandish that they go down.

That certainly isn’t the grand vision that Staveley, Al-Rumayyan and the rest of the hierarchy will have imagined.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in