In a fall from grace not seen since Kings of Leon released Sex on Fire, Newcastle United have decided that Stephen Roger Bruce is the man to fill the glaring Rafa Benitez-shaped void in the home dugout at St James’ Park.
Many across social media are pointing out that anger and contempt should not be aimed at Bruce, and they’re absolutely right.
But that does not mean the fanbase shouldn’t have the right to scrutinise the decision to hire him, or indeed scrutinise Bruce’s nomadic and underwhelming managerial career to date.
This is a damning indictment of Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United. To create such toxicity around such a high profile and once-desirable vacancy, that the highest calibre manager they can attract – nay – who is willing to take the job on is a part-time football-themed murder mystery novelist.
Remember, this is a position an unemployed Large Samuel Allardyce didn’t even want.
11th-choice Bruce (allegedly) joins an infamous list of Ashley-approved managers who have all, without question, been lucky to make the shortlist, let alone be offered the position.
For Joe Kinnear, John Carver, Steve McClaren and now Bruce, Newcastle United will be the biggest club side they’ll ever manage, and for the aforementioned three their careers dropped off a cliff after leaving behind inevitable chaos at our beloved club.
They were all hired because of the poison running through the veins of the club and an owner who has a propensity for making the very worst (and often cheapest) decisions.
Consider a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, but instead of choosing the obvious and logical directions in the narrative, you just set the book on fire.
You’d think that off the back of the rise in season ticket prices, launching the most expensive replica shirt in the Premier League, allowing Rafa Benitez to leave, and the sale of Ayoze Perez, the club might want to offer some positive news to its abused fans – even a morsel of hope or optimism.
Sadly, this is Newcastle United and there’s only so long you can dine out of the back of Dan Barlaser’s new contract.
Personally, I believe hiring Steve Bruce is a more self-destructive appointment than Steve McClaren whose performance was utterly appalling in his nine months on Tyneside.
But this article isn’t meant as a character assassination on the Geordie manager, far from it.
I’m sure he’s a lovely human, and he has always come across as humble, genuine and professional in press conferences. He’s gone through horrific personal trauma recently, and has shown incredible courage and strength in the face of that, which I sincerely admire. He’s local to the region and, yes, of course he will have coveted this dream role for years. Great.
But all this being said, doesn’t mean I have to believe he’s good enough to manage this club. Let’s look at the cold, hard facts of his last two jobs in the English top flight.
His last Premier League job was FOUR years ago at Hull City between 2013-2015. In two complete seasons at the KC Stadium, he won 18 league games and boasted a win ratio of less than 24%, and in the fateful 2014-15 campaign, the Tigers were consigned to relegation after spending £43m the previous summer.
Between 2009-2011, Bruce’s other previous Premier League management job was at forgotten rivals Sunderland, which of course ended in disaster.
Over 89 league games at the helm, he won only 25 games, resulting in a win ratio of 28%, though he later alluded to the fact his dismissal was linked to his support of Newcastle. Errr…maybe Steve, maybe.
So they we have it. Proof you can be a really canny Geordie fella, but not good enough to manage in the Premier League.
But should we reserve all judgement on his appointment until we see how the team performs under his stewardship? Maybe.
But then again, I’ve been alive and conscious for the duration of his managerial career and absolutely nothing I’ve seen over the years suggests he has the ability at this level.
It’s bad enough that this is an unsexy, underwhelming and cheap appointment after the luxury and tactical genius of Rafa Benitez, but he is not even the cliched ‘safe pair of hands’.
Louise Taylor of The Guardian recalls in a blog after his Wearside sacking that while at Sunderland, he was asked whether he would consider using a Christmas Tree formation.
He replied: ‘I’m not really into tactics.’
Five words that are already haunting me after enjoying the wizardry of Benitez for three seasons.
It’s the job nobody wanted (thanks Mike), and sadly Steve Bruce will be the only Newcastle fan truly happy with this appointment.