Newcastle have four wildcard manager options once Steve Bruce sacked as shortlist drawn up
Amanda Staveley speaks to the media after confirmed Newcastle takeover
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Newcastle’s takeover is complete and the struggling Steve Bruce is now likely to lose his job as the club’s manager in the coming weeks. The 60-year-old himself has fronted up to the possibility he could be axed imminently after the £305million Saudi Arabian-backed takeover. Brendan Rodgers, Eddie Howe and Steven Gerrard are among those with credible links – with Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane far more fanciful shouts – to the St James’ Park hotseat to replace Bruce. It’s thought Rodgers and Gerrard in particular have been shortlisted with the board keen to recruit a manager with Premier League experience. Express Sport looks at some alternative wildcard options if those more realistic candidates prove unattainable, at least before next summer.
One of the biggest figures in Newcastle’s history, Keegan spent five successful years as the club’s manager in the 90s, almost winning the league with the great ‘Entertainers’ team in 1995-96.
The much-loved 70-year-old, who is also a former Newcastle player, returned to lead the Toon again in 2008 but lasted only eight months in the job due to a fall-out with the club’s hierarchy which prompted him to walk away.
He said afterwards: “Until they [Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias] leave that football club, it has no interest for me.” Ashley is of course now gone while Llambias resigned back in 2013.
Keegan – who the Saudis have been in touch with in regards to taking up an ambassadorial role at the club – has not managed at any other club since then and would therefore be a seriously unexpected pick given the widespread changes in the game since then.
But he would be an immensely popular choice if Keegan’s return the dugout was designed as a short-term appointment to further lift the mood until a longer-term option is explored in the summer. It’s very unlikely, though.
Writing in his column for The Athletic, club legend Alan Shearer – the Premier League’s record goalscorer – confirmed the Middle Eastern consortium had also been in contact with him.
“I don’t think I’m giving much away by saying that I’ve already had a couple of telephone conversations with people involved in the consortium and I appreciated the gesture, made out of courtesy,” Shearer wrote.
Like Keegan, Shearer too has managed at St James’ Park when he was caretaker boss in 2009, though his eight games yielded just five points from 24 and the Magpies were relegated to the Championship as a result.
Similarly to Keegan, Shearer’s appointment would be on the basis that he is a popular figure at the club capable of uniting the fanbase behind a team playing more attack-minded football.
The 51-year-old is another highly unlikely successor to Bruce though, having said recently: “No, it’s too late for me now in management – it’s too late for me now I think.” It’d be a big u-turn for him to take the role after such comments, and it’s not expected he’ll be offered the job unless Newcastle exhaust a large list of alternative options.
Another unorthodox option, and another who would surely be a short-term appointment until a Gerrard or someone can be lured in the summer, is former Newcastle striker Duncan Ferguson.
Ferguson was unbeaten for a brief spell as Everton interim boss between Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti’s reigns, managing victory over Chelsea and draws with Manchester United and Arsenal.
Though he only played 41 times for the Magpies, the Scot loved his time in the north east, as proven by his son Cameron’s comments after he joined Newcastle’s youth ranks earlier this year.
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“The fans are unbelievable and he was so happy when he was here. He really enjoyed the atmosphere,” Ferguson’s son, 18, said. He added: “My dad is made up too – he speaks very highly of the club, its fan base and the lovely stadium. He was so excited and so are the whole family.”
Duncan’s dream job is at Goodison Park but perhaps like his son he could be tempted move from Merseyside to Newcastle, though that would require him to give up his role as Rafael Benitez’s assistant. Being offered a more senior role at another club he has a strong connection with might do the trick however.
The likeliest of the wildcard managerial options, Graeme Jones is Bruce’s current assistant and the former Luton Town manager was also part of the backroom staff for England at the Euros as the Three Lions reached the final.
The Gateshead-born coach has also previously worked under Barcelona target Roberto Martinez at Wigan, Everton and the Belgium national team, as well as working as an assistant at West Brom and Bournemouth.
The Chronicle report that Jones, who won 12 of 41 games in charge of Luton, has been promised he will remain part of the coaching team even if Bruce and his staff depart.
No 2 Jones is said to be popular with the players at the club and is highly rated enough as a coach that he could step in to replace Bruce as the main man for the rest of this season if necessary.
It remains to be seen what style he would seek to introduce, though perhaps a more entertaining one than utilised by Bruce. Jones said when he first arrived on Tyneside: “I think the big thing for me is always to control games with the ball and you can control games without the ball as well. There needs to be that balance.”
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