Steve Bruce may have just coined his own nickname in the eyes of some Newcastle supporters, after the United boss insisted: “I’m not Mike Ashley’s bagman.”
The new head coach on Tyneside issued his defiant statement while speaking to the media earlier in the week, and laid out his manifesto for how he will tackle the responsibility of leading the Magpies in the wake of fan favourite Rafa Benitez’s exit.
Bruce’s first task in succeeding at St James’ Park has to be holding a strong relationship with Mike Ashley, and many supporters have taken his recent claim to not being his ‘bagman’ as a line taken directly out of the Sports Direct owner’s playbook.
One member of the St James’ Park faithful has quipped on Reddit ‘Blink twice if you’re in danger Brucie’, while another shared that the 58-year-old’s comment ‘Sounds like what Mike Ashley’s bagman would say’.
In their report quoting Bruce’s ‘I’m not Mike Ashley’s bagman’ comment, The Guardian note that one of the boss’ Tyneside predecessors Alan Pardew was almost hounded out of the club as he was perceived by some supporters to be a puppet controlled by Ashley, and a similar fate could bestow Bruce if he does not handle the situation with great care and attention.
Bruce, however, is putting on a defiant stance that he is his own man, and will not be controlled like a puppet by the powers that stand above him.
“I’m not going to be anybody’s ‘yes’ man,” he said. “I’m too long in the tooth for that. I’ve heard it said that I’m a puppet, but I’m not Mike Ashley’s bagman or anything else. I’m my own man. All I ask is to be given a chance.
“Whoever was sitting here would find it difficult. Rafa had quite phenomenal, unbelievable support from the fans, and they are big shoes to fill. But let me have a crack.”
Bruce went on to add: “It’s definitely not the case that the ambition here is finishing 17th. Of course Mike Ashley wants more than 17th. We’ve got to take the club forward.
“At Hull, we got to the final [of the FA Cup in 2014, losing 3-2 to Arsenal having held a 2-0 lead]. That’s got to be an aim here. I’ve put my neck on the line immediately with that, but it’s not just about being happy to stay in the division. That would be wrong.
“Everyone knows it’s very, very difficult now to get anywhere near the top of the Premier League. But we’ll try our best. Can we win the FA Cup? Can we win the League Cup? If Hull can stay in the Premier League and reach the FA Cup Final, surely Newcastle has the tools too?”
Here’s how these Newcastle fans reacted to Bruce’s comments on Newcastle longing for more than a 17th place finish and aspirations of challenging in the cups…