Steve Bruce recognised he will have his work cut out after being appointed manager of Newcastle United on a three-year contract on Wednesday.
The 58-year-old former Sunderland and Aston Villa boss replaces popular Spaniard Rafa Benitez, who left St James’ Park last month after failing to agree a contract extension with club owner Mike Ashley.
‘This is my boyhood club and it was my dad’s club, so this is a very special moment for me and my family,’ Bruce told the Newcastle website. He had resigned from Championship side Sheffield Wednesday earlier in the week.
‘There is a huge challenge ahead of us, but it’s one that my staff and I are ready for. We’ll roll our sleeves up and we’ll be giving it everything from the off to ensure supporters have a successful team that they can be proud of.’
The chances of success are complicated by an owner who wants to sell a big but perennially under-performing club, and fans increasingly venting their anger at the lack of funds and ambition.
Newcastle have yet to sign any players in the transfer window and have lost strikers Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez, who scored more than half of the Magpies’ Premier League goals last season.
Venezuelan Rondon was on loan from West Bromwich Albion and is set to join Benitez at Chinese superleague side Dalian Yifang while Perez has joined Leicester City.
Bruce has plenty of Premier League experience, managing 392 games, but he has also twice suffered relegation with Birmingham City and Hull City and will have to win over fans unhappy to see Benitez go and underwhelmed by his replacement.
The Twitter hashtag #BruceOut was trending already after the announcement.
Online bookmaker Betway posted odds of 6/4 for him to be fired before the end of the campaign.
Bruce, who will be joined by coaches Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence, led Wednesday to 12th in the Championship last season after being appointed in January.
Former Liverpool and Real Madrid manager Benitez, now the coach of Dalian Yifang, led Newcastle to 13th in the Premier League in 2018-19.
The 59-year-old Champions League winner joined Newcastle in March 2016 but failed to save them from relegation from the Premier League.
He remained in charge and immediately led them back up, then stabilised the club with a 10th-placed finish in 2017-18.
‘I wanted to stay, but I didn’t just want to sign an extended contract, I wanted to be part of a project,’ he said after his departure.
‘Unfortunately, it became increasingly clear to me that those at the top of the club did not share the same vision.’
Newcastle managing director Lee Charnley said the club would ‘be fully prepared for the challenge of a new Premier League season’.
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