Soccer

Newcastle’s seven-man shortlist as Magpies weigh-up Bruce exit

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has form for sacking his managers in a Spring time panic, with relegation looming.

Five years ago Steve McClaren was axed on March 11, during a miserable run of form, and replaced by Rafa Benitez for the final ten games of the season.

Back in March 2009, Joe Kinnear was being eased out, with Alan Shearer slotted in to the hot seat with eight games to go.

Both campaigns ended up in relegation, the bounce and optimism of a new manager coming too late to drastically improve results.

Benitez stayed on to revive the club and win promotion the next season.

Shearer wanted more than eight games in charge and for a proper crack at management… but never heard from Ashley again.

Steve Bruce's Newcastle have 13 games left, with Wolves, Aston Villa, West Brom and Brighton next up.

They've lost 12 times in their last 16 games, and are without leading scorer Callum Wilson until mid April.

Ashley faces a key decision whether to gamble and pull the trigger in the next couple of weeks.

Will he stick with the hand he's got – a pretty weak, unpopular, and at the moment losing one at the moment?

If he gambles he'll have a vital choice to make…. who can lift the gloom, and revive Newcastle United?

As of Monday morning Ashley was said to see Newcastle as low of his business priorities, as he concentrated on his Fraser Group high street empire, and not ready to sack a manager he has had a decent relationship with.

But planning ahead is always happening in the football business and mental shortlists being drawn up. Here are the candidates likely to be on the St James' Park radar:

Rafa Benitez

Pros

The No1 fans choice after two seasons of rebuilding Newcastle into a solid Premier League club following relegation. Even described as “the Mighty Rafa” by Bruce this season.

Would be high on the list of candidates for new owners. Understands the club, loved being the leader of the Toon Army and an excellent, tactician, mood-maker and communicator.

His drive, attention to detail and will to win, plus an capacity to build a club from top to bottom, are legendary.

Cons

Highly unlikely to work for Ashley again after the way it ended in the works canteen at Sports Direct HQ.

Pragmatic style of football attracted criticism. Costs £6m a year to hire and will want full control of football operations.

Refused to sign a new contract and left in June 2019, after realising the club wasn't the long term project he wanted… with a £12m a year offer to manager China on the table.

Roberto Martinez

Pros

Vast experience as Wigan, Swansea and Everton boss, and currently managing Belgium.

Fluid, modern passing football style very much of the modern era.

Top connections with the best of Belgium, and led the nation to third in the World Cup.

Lifted the FA Cup with Wigan. Two domestic semi-finals with Everton.

Cons

Currently Belgium boss with the Euros approaching. Could he do both, or only be available in the summer to work alongside Graeme Jones?

Relegated with Wigan and driven out of Everton by discontent fans while 12 th .

Graeme Jones

Pros

Already working as Bruce's assistant after joining last month and claimed to be a “neutral” appointment, and a fresh voice.

Has already made tactical improvements and the local lad has high level coaching expertise as Roberto Martinez's No2 at Everton and Belgium

Cons

Has only had one season as a No1, at Luton, and that wasn't a success. He oversaw just ten league wins and the Hatters were 23 rd in the Championship when he left in April 2019.

Untested in the pressure of top flight leadership.

Eddie Howe

Pros

In need of a fresh challenge away from his long term home of Bournemouth and regarded as a modern, stylish coach who can build a club.

Has worked with, and remains friends, with Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser, who were part of his top flight Cherries side.

Cons

Relegation on his CV while in charge of Bournemouth last season. Couldn't turn their faltering campaign around?

Sean Dyche

Pros

Likely to covert a crack at a reviving a club bigger than Burnley after sterling service, and near miracle working, at Turf Moor. Works on a budget, good knowledge of bargain recruits that will be needed in post-pandemic football finance, and ready for a change. A strong, intelligent, leader, and more dimensional than his public image.

Cons

Style of play at Burnley will not go down well on Tyneside and would have to prove more expansive.

Steve Cooper

Pros

World Cup winning ex England U17 manager with detailed knowledge of the emerging talent in the English ranks and connections to get several to his current club Swansea. That would be useful during a Newcastle rebuild, and signing players to add value.

Cons

In the thick of a promotion bid with Swansea and unlikely to be available until the summer.

Alan Pardew

Pros

Led Newcastle to a fifth place finish and a Europa League quarter final and got Newcastle playing the best football of the Ashley era – positive, goal scoring and with a swagger.

For a spell – he was handed an eight year deal – he knitted together the demands of fans, players and boardroom very well.

Left United with the club ninth, to boss Crystal Palace, when facing a fan backlash at St James' Park.

Cons

Wildcard. Unlikely to appeal to the fan-base, but could be a short term, see how it goes, emergency appointment.

Currently technical director of CSKA Sofia.

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