Comments from former Sunderland and England striker Darren Bent to Football Insider will be a huge concern for Newcastle fans, as he expects United chiefs warned Steve Bruce that he would be signing up for a relegation battle by taking the vacant Magpies job.
Toon executives targeted Bruce as Rafa Benitez’s replacement, having seen the likes of Patrick Vieira and Mikel Arteta distance themselves from succeeding the new Dalian Yifang boss at St James’ Park after his Magpies contract expired on June 30.
Rangers boss Steven Gerrard was also in contention during the early stages of Mike Ashley and Managing Director Lee Charnley’s search for our new head coach, but announced Bruce’s appointment on Wednesday morning.
The 58-year-old leaves his duties at Sheffield Wednesday to take up the hot seat at the side he supported in his youth, and has signed an initial three-year contract with Newcastle.
Bruce has experience of top-flight relegation battles having been in charge of Hull City during the 2014/15 Premier League season, where the Tigers finished 18th, three points from safety.
Bent also suspects the departures of Ayoze Perez to Leicester City and Salomon Rondon returning to parent side West Bromwich Albion will fracture any hopes on Tyneside of United challenging for anything more than safety, with the club potentially already planning for life in the Championship in 2020/21.
“They lost one of their best players in Ayoze Perez, that’s a big blow, Rondon’s not signed, that’s another key player – it’s tough, it’s a real rebuilding shift,” Bent said.
“The only thing I can think of that Newcastle have said to Steve Bruce is; ‘There is a chance we will go down this season. If we do, don’t worry about it, you’re the person to get us back up.’ Maybe they’ve got one eye looking forward [to life in the Championship].
“You think to yourself Mike Ashley’s best chance to sell the club is right now, their selling point is high as it is ever going to be – right now. If they go down, who is going to buy the club then?”
The second-tier has been Bruce’s home since he fell out of the Premier League with Hull in 2015, as he stepped down from the Tigers’ helm the following year over a lack of signings having guided the KCOM natives to Play-Off success.
The Corbridge-born head coach returned to the dugout with Aston Villa the following October and led the Birmingham-based side to the Play-Off Final, before losing his job with the Villains the following October.