Steve Bruce admits he was preparing himself for the sack a month ago – but is now the driving force behind Newcastle's rebuild.
“A new brush always sweeps clean, as my mum used to say,” said Bruce yesterday of the Saudi-funded takeover that collapsed 28 days ago.
“I was under no illusion of what might be coming.
“But it hasn't happened and I can move it on,” said Bruce.
On Wednesday, he was greeting Newcastle owner Mike Ashley as the tycoon's helicopter landed at the training ground and introducing him to four new signings including £20million striker Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and £15million Norwich fullback Jamal Lewis.
The twists and turns of footballing life on Tyneside are sharp and jolting.
Bruce has called the shots like few of his predecessors in the past fortnight, winning Ashley's trust to break a 13-year policy of only signing youngsters, and has emerged strengthened.
When the Saudi Arabia state investment fund pulled the plug on their proposed £300m buyout, dreams of a spectacular rebuild, and a potential fresh challenger to the top six elite, vanished.
A summer that promised to deliver Mauricio Pochettino as manager, Philippe Coutinho, Kalidou Koulibaly and £250m to be spent in five years, over and above current budgets, changed course.
“That chapter is gone,” Bruce said. “Once it was knocked on the head I got my head back on that we are going back to work, and asked how do we improve.”
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Bruce did some straight-talking with Ashley to explain what he needed, and why, and backed by MD Lee Charnley, a rebuild of sorts has been triggered.
As Bruce put it yesterday, Newcastle “flexed muscles” to land Wilson. He added: “We're not finished yet,” a nod to wanting Arsenal defender Rob Holding on loan.
This week's deals represent clever business and a change of direction, funded, it should be noted, not by Ashley's generosity but within the club's self-generated budget.
He persuaded Ashley not to go the speculative foreign bargain route at a time when budgets are tightening and incomes shrunk by a global pandemic.
The policy this summer was to land “proven Premier League players to hit the ground running,” explained Bruce. “People are delighted with what we have done and didn't think it would be possible.”
Cautious optimism on Tyneside? Maybe. “Until next week…” joked Bruce, mindful of how quickly the mood changes.
How high can a club that's fallen hundreds of millions of pounds in income behind the elite hope to finish?
The trio of players doing socially distanced interviews yesterday before meeting Ashley, spoke of the pull of St James' Park, the clubs standing, and a “fresh start project”. Switched on, serious, ambition lads.
The first target is bettering last season's 13th place finish, towards a points total of 50-plus.
Wolves and Everton are in Newcastle's league at around £175m of turnover and spending big. Overhauling Burnley, Sheffield United and Southampton, would also seem realistic markers of progress for Bruce this season.
Plus a proper crack at the Carabao Cup as others prioritise elsewhere.
Much depends on Wilson and how many goals he can get. Emulate his 16 at Bournemouth two seasons ago and Newcastle will be in business.
Jonjo Shelvey top scored with six goals in the league last season, ahead of Dwight Gayle, now out injured for 3-4 months, and Miguel Almiron on four each.
Joelinton, who will keep the No.9 shirt, got just two in the league. Andy Carroll has not scored in the Premier League April 2018. Yoshi Muto is looking for a new club.
Wilson admits he needs to step up and get to double figures as quick as possible.
The top six are miles away, but Bruce can now prove himself to the many doubting fans, believing they are in a much stronger position than a year ago. Or a month ago, and even a week ago after losing 5-1 to Boro.
He added: “I do know you must never underestimate what a great club we have got. It is still classed as a really great club to play for.”
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