Miles Starforth's China tour diary: Steve Bruce addresses 'puppet' claims as he faces the press
First he had to meet the players. Then he had to face the press.
Steve Bruce today had his first major challenge since his appointment as Newcastle United’s head coach.
The 58-year-old faced the media with defender Paul Dummett at the team’s hotel in Shanghai, China. And Bruce, immediately, had to address the largely negative reaction on Tyneside to his appointment as Rafa Benitez’s successor.
“Make no mistake – it’s going to be difficult,” said Bruce. “I’m under no illusions. My eyes are wide open to it. I’ve got big boots to fill, but I’m delighted to be given the opportunity. I couldn't really refuse the opportunity.”
Bruce also spoke about Alan Shearer’s warning to him. The former United striker, a close friend of Bruce, had advised him NOT to take on what he described as a “toxic” job.
“Alan’s a big, big friend of mine, and he’s welcome to his opinions. I understand the challenge that lays ahead. I’m not everybody’s cup of tea and I’m not Rafa Benitez. However, I’m confident enough in my experience, and the people I’ve brought in, that we can continue to take the club forward.”
Bruce spoke well in the plush function at the Shangri-La Hotel, situated near the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower.
One thing he was keen to stress was that he was not a “puppet” of owner Mike Ashley.
Bruce was asked if he felt that he was wrongly-portrayed in the media after criticising what he described as “nonsense” that had been reported.
“I don't think it comes into the equation,” said Bruce. “Am I in charge of transfers or am I a puppet? That won't happen, of course. That's the sort of thing i'm referring to.”
Bruce came through this early challenge. It was a start. Fans can listen to what he had to say, and read his interviews, and make their own judgements.
However, he knows he will only really start to win over the doubters and critics by winning games.
And that, given that Newcastle are behind their rivals on and off the pitch this pre-season, will be the biggest challenge of his long managerial career.