LONDON (AFP) – Newcastle risked stoking the anger of their frustrated fans by hiring former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce as their head coach yesterday.
Bruce has agreed a three-year contract with the Premier League club, but his appointment to succeed Rafael Benitez wasn’t met with universal approval by Newcastle supporters.
“Newcastle United can now announce that Steve Bruce has been appointed as the club’s new head coach,” the club said on their official website.
Former Manchester United defender Bruce, who resigned from Championship side Sheffield yesterday prior to joining Newcastle, said, “I’m delighted and incredibly proud to be appointed as head coach of Newcastle United.
“This is my boyhood club and it was my dad’s club, so this is a very special moment for me and my family.”
The 58-year-old might be a local boy after growing up on Tyneside, but his two-year spell as coach of Newcastle’s fierce rivals Sunderland and a mediocre record as a Premier League manager are major black marks for an already angry fan base.
Some Newcastle supporters are furious that controversial Newcastle owner Mike Ashley failed to keep the popular Benitez at St James’ Park after more than three years with the club.
Benitez was recently appointed manager of Chinese Super League club Dalian Yifang and said he left at the end of the season because his Newcastle vision was not shared with “those at the top of the club”.
Ashley has been criticised for failing to back his previous managers in the transfer market, while former England boss Sam Allardyce reportedly turned down the chance to return for a second spell as Newcastle manager following Benitez’s exit.
Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta had also been linked with the job, as were former Manchester United boss David Moyes and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez.
But Managing Director at Newcastle United Lee Charnley said the club was pleased to appoint a coach of Bruce’s “vast experience and connections…”
“The hard work for Steve and his team starts immediately and we will be fully prepared for the challenge of a new Premier League season,” he added.
Bruce is no stranger to bridging the divide between rival clubs, having previous managed Sheffield United and their rivals yesterday, as well as Birmingham and their hated neighbours Aston Villa.
Bruce, who has won four promotions from the second-tier of English football, has suffered relegation from the Premier League twice, in 2005-06 with Birmingham and 2014-15 with Hull.
His highest finish in the top-flight was 10th, with Birmingham in 2003-04 and Sunderland in 2010-11.
But Bruce has his work cut out at Newcastle, who have already lost their leading forwards from last season – Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez – and are the only top-flight club yet to make a signing since the end of last term.
The Premier League transfer window closes in less than a month, adding to the pressure on Bruce as he tries to win over disillusioned fans amid calls for a boycott of St James’ Park until Ashley sells the club.
The Newcastle squad are currently on a pre-season tour in China and Bruce and his staff are scheduled to travel to join them there following yesterday’s match in Nanjing against Wolves.