Newcastle legend Alan Shearer discusses the club takeover
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Out of the smoke and thunder of the Newcastle United buyout one sentence from the manager who will be trampled underfoot in the stampede to a bright new tomorrow on Tyneside hit savagely home.
Steve Bruce, soon to be ex-manager of the club he has supported all his life, came out with this observation as he reflected on the stick he has suffered from his fellow Newcastle fans in his time in charge.
“Some of the things written and said about me, the abuse on social media, I’m just glad my parents were not still alive to see and hear it because it would have broken their hearts.”
Bruce lost both his parents within the space of three months in 2018.
Imagine for a second just how stinging the barbs have to be for a man to be glad his parents are dead so they do not have to be exposed to them. Amongst the pile of messages was one which read: ‘I hope you die of Covid.’
There is barely a Newcastle supporter who will not welcome Bruce’s imminent departure but in their joy at his exit and their elation at the riyal injection that will make their club serious players again in English football, those who considered him fair game for such filth should take some time to consider the impact of their attacks.
Bruce might have been a poor appointment – although it is worth his many critics remembering that if he had not kept Newcastle in the Premier League the Saudis would never have come knocking – but he did not deserve the excess which came his way. No-one does.
Football managers and their abilities will always attract a range of opinion, positive and negative, but there is a line of basic decency which should not be crossed. In too many cases, in Bruce’s case, as the visible punchbag for the Mike Ashley regime, it was.
The manager is the first point of criticism for disgruntled fans and that will never change. The scrutiny goes with the territory. Fans have the right to call for change at their clubs. But even in the wild west environment that football can resemble there is no place for personal vilification on the scale that Bruce was subjected to.
There is an argument that the high wages and substantial pay-offs should be more than an adequate cushion for managers – Bruce will ride off into the sunset a wealthy man – but the reality is that no amount of money insulates against a degree of hurt that makes you glad your parents are dead.
It will be painful and frustrating enough to know you are a lame-duck manager about to depart as the wind of change blows in from the Arabian desert.
The sheikh-over is the most exciting and controversial jolt to the Premier League in a decade, one that has the potential to redraw the landscape of English football.
The face of the new regime up to now has been the financier Amanda Staveley whose family business interests included the successful transformation of a pig farm into a theme park. In a rare quiet moment she may reflect there are parallels at play in this fantasy project.
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Here, it is only right to declare an interest. I used to work for the Staveleys at Lightwater Valley. As a rat. And a pig. And a chicken – the North Yorkshire Disneyland versions of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
For the agents currently bombarding her with calls offering their clients’ services a warning – the Staveleys can drive a hard bargain. This was in the days before the minimum wage and the pay for this glamour role was £1.60 an hour.
Staveley, like Jamie Reuben, is just a ten per center, at Newcastle of course. The real clout on the board lies with Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the chairman and 80 per center who has been rather less front and centre of house this week.
It is almost like Newcastle are keen to play down their Saudi connections. Now why would that be? Is that a bone saw in your tunic or are you just displeased to see me?
The approval for the deal, before the anticipated tightening of the fit and proper person clause in English football’s ownership which the current governance review is set to bring in, is highly convenient.
The board has three critical appointments to make over the coming days – chief executive, sporting director (if they choose to go down that route) and manager. Of these the manager is the most important.
It is inconceivable that Bruce will stay in post and he will make way to widespread relief but a man who has been torn to pieces at a club he loves should be allowed some dignity as he departs.
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