Newcastle owner Mike Ashley makes decision over Steve Bruce future as sack pressure rises

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley will not sack manager Steve Bruce any time soon because he does not want to get into the process of finding a replacement as he looks to sell the club on, particularly amid the major financial problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Bruce declared that he will not walk away from his job after his side lost to Sheffield United on Tuesday night.

Newcastle have not won any of their last eight matches across all competitions, crashing out of the Carabao Cup at the quarter-final stage to Championship side Brentford and losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup third round.

It means the Magpies’ long search for silverware continues but in the Premier League a six-game winless run and dire performances have seen fans call for Bruce’s dismissal.

The north east outfit lost 1-0 to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane and served up a turgid display as they became the only team to lose to the Blades this season after 18 games.

Speaking afterwards, Bruce said: “I’ll never ever walk away from a challenge. I’ve been in it long enough to have that respect, but I understand – especially watching the first half – we weren’t good enough and I take the responsibility for that, because I picked the team.

“We’ve been trying something different because over the last few weeks we’ve struggled going forward, so my thoughts were to get Ryan [Fraser], someone fresh, and Sean [Longstaff] higher up the pitch where he could be a goal threat. Unfortunately that didn’t happen.

“I think we’ve had, apart from the last month which we knew would be difficult with the run of fixtures we’ve had, we’ve given ourselves a decent start to the season.”

And the Independent say Bruce is under no immediate threat of being axed by the Newcastle owner due to his desire not to get distracted as he seeks to find a new buyer.

Bruce took over from Rafa Benitez in July 2019 and secured a 13th-placed finish last term but the below-par attacking performances of the Newcastle team this season and even at times last year have left fans understandably disgruntled.

The 60-year-old coach though will remain in charge for the foreseeable future unless Newcastle’s form does not improve and they find themselves dragged into the relegation battle.

Newcastle are currently eight points clear of 18th-placed Fulham albeit having played two games more than Scott Parker’s side.

The lack of goals at St James’ Park is an issue however with just 18 scored in 17 games and only 12 in their last 13 since a 3-1 home defeat of Burnley in October.

Bruce must ensure Newcastle get back to picking up points to save his boyhood club from sliding down towards the bottom three.

But owner Ashley is currently preoccupied as he looks to sell off the club, with the Amanda Staveley-led bid from PCP Capital Partners, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the Reuben brothers still not dead in the water.

Though the Saudi Arabia-backed consortium withdrew their bid to take over last July after being made to wait the best of part of three months for league approval which never arrived.

The Independent add that both parties are still open to doing business after a £300million takeover had been agreed in April last year.

Sports Direct bigwig Ashley has been looking to part ways with Newcastle for several years but has yet to see a deal go through, with the Staveley-fronted group the most likely current buyers.

Ashley has issued arbitration proceedings with the Premier League and is pursuing legal action over their role in the failed Saudi bid last year.

Newcastle fans are meanwhile still frustrated with Ashley at Benitez’s departure after the club failed to agree a new contract with the much-loved Spaniard, partly due to the former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Chelsea manager’s frustrations at a lack of freedom in the transfer market.

Should Bruce eventually lose his job, there will likely be clamour for Benitez to be brought back to England with the 60-year-old currently working in Asia with Chinese Super League club Dalian Professional.

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