Steve Bruce reveals what Mike Ashley told him about transfers at Newcastle United

Steve Bruce has opened up on his meeting with Mike Ashley – and revealed the Newcastle United owner’s transfer pledge.

By Miles Starforth
Saturday, 20 July, 2019, 05:00
Steve Bruce.

Rafa Benitez left St James’s Park last month after two years of stand-offs with Ashley over the club’s recruitment.

However, Bruce believes he can work with Ashley, having met the billionaire before taking on the job.

Steve Bruce and Paul Dummett at a Shanghai press conference.

“I went to see him, and everybody was really honest about where we are, what we want to do, what he expects and what we’re going to try and achieve together” said Bruce, who is in China with the club for the Premier League Asia Trophy.

“It was very straight forward. I was a very good meeting, and it obviously went OK, because he gave me the job!”

Benitez – who had the final say on any incoming or outgoing – was forced to sell to buy last summer after refusing to sign a new contract before getting assurances over transfer spending.

Corbridge-born Bruce – who left his post at Sheffield Wednesday to take the job at his boyhood club – will work with Steve Nickson, the club’s head of recruitment, though he has insisted that he wouldn’t have taken the job on had he not been promised the final say on proposed deals.

“Recruitment, yes that has insulted me, the things that have been said,” said Bruce. “Let me tell you, if I thought I couldn’t have control of transfers, then of course, I wouldn’t be doing it. I wouldn’t do it at all.

“With the recruitment guys, that’s how football clubs work. It’s vital it works. You have to have a team of people behind you, who give you the list of names that I have the final say. A manager can’t know every player in the world – I can’t go and watch them play around the world. I can’t see them, because you don’t have the time.

“You have to rely on your recruitment team – I’ve always done that – but you have to have the final say on who you’re going to bring in.”

Newcastle, the only club in the Premier League yet to make a signing, hope to clinch a deal for Hoffenheim striker Joelinton over the coming days.

“Of course we have (a lot to do), but the whole club’s geared up to do that (sign players) in the next few weeks,” said Bruce, who will watch today’s game against West Ham United at Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium from the stands.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see where we’re light.

“We’re going to spend the next three weeks working on it. We’re going to need at least three or four in. On Joelinton, I’m not sure we are with that, I’ve not spoken to Lee (Charnley, United’s managing director) since I got there. I was in bed at 7.30pm (on Thursday night).

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“I’m aware I need to bring players or we’re going to be light.”

Asked if he had been given a transfer budget, Bruce said: “We’ve talked about budgets, and it was pretty straight forward.

“I think Mike’s always been pretty straight, but whatever the club brings in, and whatever we generate by getting players through the door, we’ve got to spend. That’s where we are – that all the conversation was. I’m under no illusions – we need to bring a few players in to improve.”

Bruce was warned off the job by Alan Shearer, his close friend, after Benitez left the club.

The former United striker labelled the situation at the club as “toxic” in his newspaper column this week. Bruce, however, was undeterred.

“He said ‘no, no, no’,” said Bruce, “I said ‘yes, yes, yes’. He’s a big friend – and he’s a big Newcastle fan at the end of it – but I had no hesitation as soon as I got the phone call. I’d heard I was on their list, but until you get that phone call, when it became real, there was no hesitation. I had to have a crack.”

Bruce had turned the job down 15 years ago when Shearer was still playing for the club.

“For any Geordie, if you can’t manage to play for them, then to get back and manage them it’s something special,” said Bruce.

“If I had my time back, I would’ve gone in 2004 when Bobby Robson left. I never thought the opportunity would come again. Through all of this, I just thought ‘I’ve got to go and have a crack’ – that was my overriding thought.

“No matter how difficult, no matter how much I’m going to have to deal with, I had to have a crack at it.”

Bruce is well aware of the largely negative reaction to his appointment on Tyneside.

“I can’t take that personally – the only thing that can improve it is results,” said Bruce. “The atmosphere in the city’s a result of Rafa leaving. There’s naturally disappointment that the club have lost a very talented manager, but I cant change that.

“We aren’t all Champions League winners, but I will do my utmost to keep the club going forward.

“I hope I can still take the club forward, and really establish it as a Premier League force.”