Almost as soon as the Saudi Arabia-backed takeover of Newcastle United was completed earlier this month, it seemed likely that Steve Bruce, widely seen as a symbol of the maligned Mike Ashley era at the club, would be sent packing.
It was therefore unsurprising when confirmation of Bruce’s departure from St James’ Park came on Wednesday morning. Now, Newcastle United’s new owners must pick the right replacement to move the club forward. Names, including that of Lucien Favre, Paulo Fonseca and Eddie Howe, are already being linked with the North East outfit.
While the Magpies are dreaming of big name players and big trophies, they must first avoid relegation from the Premier League. This is the reality of their current situation and these are the five things Newcastle’s new manager, whoever that turns out to be, must do.
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Find defensive leaders and stop the rot

No team has conceded more goals in the Premier League this season than Newcastle United (19). For context, this is three more goals than newly promoted Norwich City have conceded despite the Canaries being rooted to the foot of the table after facing Liverpool, Manchester City, Leicester City and Arsenal in their first eight fixtures.
Jamie Carragher called Newcastle’s backline a “Championship defence,” and with good reason. Rafa Benitez managed to forge a strong defensive core during his time at the club, but his good work has been eroded over time. The Magpies need leaders at the back. Whoever takes over at St James’ Park will have to focus on this part of the pitch.

Karl Darlow for Newcastle United against Tottenham Hotspur.

Image credit: Getty Images

Ease the reliance on Saint-Maximin/Wilson

In Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson, Newcastle United boast two top tier attackers capable of making the difference against most opponents. It would be natural for the Magpies’ new manager to build around the pair in the final third. However, Newcastle can’t be as reliant on them as Bruce’s team was.
Last season, Newcastle’s points-per-game ratio with Saint-Maximin in the team stood at 1.33. Without the Frenchman, it was 0.62. With Wilson, it was 1.27. Without the striker, it was 0.44. The drop-off from Newcastle without one or both of their two best players was astounding. This isn’t sustainable, especially with Saint-Maximin and Wilson so injury-prone.

Lead the recruitment process in January

This is where Newcastle United’s appointment of a new manager could get messy. Their need for new players to boost the fight against relegation is urgent, yet the identification of a new Director of Football is a process that might take a long time. After all, this isn’t something that can be rushed.
In the immediate term, Newcastle require a manager who can lead the recruitment process in January. This person will need a contacts book that can compensate for the lack of a scouting network at St James’ Park and a clear vision of the sort of players who can both help the Magpies in the short-term and build towards the future.

Make St James’ Park a fortress again

There are few Premier League stadiums as architecturally imposing as St James’ Park. The 52,405-capacity venue looms over the city - there’s a reason it’s nicknamed ‘the cathedral on the hill.’ On top of this, Newcastle United boast one of the most fervent fanbases in European football.
Yet Newcastle United have been a soft touch in front of their own supporters this season. Along with Burnley and Norwich City, they have the worst home record in the Premier League having taken just one point from four fixtures. Whoever replaces Bruce must make St James’ Park a difficult place for visiting teams again.

A Newcastle United fan lets the club know what he wants to see.

Image credit: Getty Images

Get the fans back on-side

Bruce’s tenure became so toxic that it frequently felt as if the Newcastle United manager was in open warfare with his own supporters. Some argue Bruce was treated too harshly, but regardless of who was to blame for the discourse the connection was severed between the team on the pitch and the fans in the stands.
Re-establishing this connection must be on the to-do list of whoever takes over at St James’ Park - see how Benitez did this during his time in charge. Newcastle United boast one of the most passionate fan bases in the Premier League. It’s about time that they used this to their advantage.
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26/01/2022 AT 12:41