Newcastle United have fired the starting gun on what could be the most dramatic overhaul of a Premier League squad in a decade with manager Steve Bruce departing the club "by mutual consent."
Bruce's eventual departure had seemed inevitable as soon as the Saudi-led consortium completed the purchase of Newcastle 13 days ago, bringing with them access to the $350 billion sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, the Public Investment Fund (PIF). Supporters at St. James' Park had long since lost patience with what they perceived as the Bruce's dour, defensive football and with results hardly putting together a convincing case for his continued employment by the new regime.
The 60 year old had seen his side win just nine of their last 38 Premier League games and after guiding his team to midtable last season he leaves Newcastle without a victory to their name in this campaign. Sunday's 3-1 loss to Tottenham, the 1,000th match of Bruce's managerial career, left the Magpies 19th in the table with three points and the Premier League's worst goal difference.
"I am grateful to everyone connected with Newcastle United for the opportunity to manage this unique football club," said Bruce, a boyhood fan of the club. "I would like to thank my coaching team, the players and the support staff in particular for all their hard work. There have been highs and lows, but they have given everything even in difficult moments and should be proud of their efforts.
"This is a club with incredible support, and I hope the new owners can take it forward to where we all want it to be. I wish everyone the very best of luck for the rest of this season and beyond."
In an interview with the Telegraph, Bruce was altogether more candid, saying: "By the time I got to Newcastle, I thought I could handle everything thrown at me but it has been very, very tough. To never really be wanted, to feel that people wanted me to fail, to read people constantly saying I would fail, that I was useless, a fat waste of space, a stupid, tactically inept cabbage head or whatever. And it was from day one."
First team coach Graeme Jones, also a part of Gareth Southgate's backroom staff at Euro 2020, will take interim charge of Newcastle, starting with Saturday's game against Crystal Palace. The new owners are determined to take their time in finding the right successor, hence the decision to keep Bruce in situ for Sunday's defeat, a decision that brought some small measure of disappointment to supporters celebrating the end of the Mike Ashley era.
Former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is set to be among those who come under consideration from the Newcastle hierarchy, who are reportedly also keen on Lucien Favre and Paulo Fonseca. The latter came close to being appointed Tottenham manager earlier this summer and is keen to move to the Premier League after enjoying success with Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk.
The new Newcastle manager will have something of a complex job on his hands. In the long term the club aspire to be competing at the highest echelons of European football, winning the major silverware that has eluded them since 1955. More immediately, however, there is a distinct risk of being mired in the quicksand of the relegation zone with a squad that has received relatively little quality investment in recent years.
Though Bruce did his job of keeping the club in the top flight his successor will inherit a squad that looks to have holes across it, particularly if a new manager wants to deploy a more expansive style that will ingratiate himself with fans and ownership. Since their return to the top flight in 2017-18 the only Premier League ever presents with fewer goals to their name than Newcastle's 175 are Brighton and Burnley. Only four players have reached double figures in that period -- Ayoze Perez, Salomon Rondon (both of whom have left the club), Dwight Gayle and Callum Wilson -- with the Magpies struggling to create chances and score goals.
How easily those problems will be fixed in the January transfer window may well depend on whether Bruce's successor can drag Newcastle up the table. If there is a serious risk of relegation even PIF's remarkable wealth may not be enough to convince potential new signings to make the move to the north east.