1 Appoint the right manager to replace Bruce
Bruce will oversee his 1,000th game as a manager when Tottenham visit Tyneside on Sunday but it must be his last in charge of Newcastle. The team have not yet won this season and desperately need some fresh tactical ideas capable of camouflaging their weaknesses. The vitriol directed at Bruce by sections of Newcastle’s support has become a debilitating distraction, causing players to lose concentration. With the board’s top managerial choices – Everton’s Rafael Benítez and Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers – unavailable and agents pushing the credentials of a confusing array of candidates, the club are in limbo with matters complicated further by the new chain of command. Decisions made by the British-based directors, Amanda Staveley and Jamie Reuben, must be approved by the Saudi-based non-executive chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan. So far, the only apparent consensus as to Bruce’s replacement is that he must be a long-term “project man” keen to undertake a painstaking “rebuilding job.”
2 Re-energise the players by banishing uncertainty
A strangely surreal, slightly chaotic week at Newcastle’s training ground left players startled to see Bruce remaining in charge. In turn, a manager who had publicly admitted he expected to be sacked feared his authority was ebbing away as some players have stopped listening to his instructions. Some are anxious they will soon be replaced by new signings and re-homed at mainly Championship clubs. Several have been at St James’ Park since Benítez led the team to promotion from the second tier in 2017 and are excellent professionals, but there is a danger their commitment might fade in the face of a loosening of the emotional ties binding them to Tyneside. Staveley needs to deploy her stellar communication skills to persuade the squad’s lesser lights they could yet have important roles in Newcastle’s evolution. She clearly impressed the veteran defender Federico Fernández during their first meeting last week. “These are times of revolutionary change,” he said. “But we look forward to the future with great enthusiasm.”
3 Decide on a director of football, playing philosophy and recruitment strategy
Mike Ashley’s prudent financial stewardship means there could be as much as £200m to spend in January, yet there is no point filling a shopping trolley with expensive new players if they prove bad buys. Newcastle’s £40m purchase of Joelinton should serve as a cautionary tale. So they must appoint a director of football with the right knowledge and contacts to implement a sustainable recruitment strategy, leaving the manger free to coach. Yet recruitment can only begin once an overall on-pitch philosophy has been agreed on. It is pointless purchasing players unsuited to a particular system or tactics.
4 Appoint a chief executive to improve professional standards and modernise infrastructure
Lee Charnley, Newcastle’s current MD, has done a decent job but is too limited for the new era. A CEO with the vision, intelligence and streetwise ambition of Brian Marwood is required. The north-east born MD of global football at the City Football Group played a key role in Manchester City’s metamorphosis under Middle Eastern ownership, understands how business is done in Arabia and would be ideal. Whoever succeeds Charnley, though, must see off unscrupulous agents seeking a fast buck, while overseeing the construction of a brand new training facility and much improved medical facilities. Not to mention instilling a new, highly professional ethos everywhere from boardroom to laundry room.
5 Swaddle Saint-Maximin, Wilson and Dubravka in cotton wool
Saint-Maximin is arguably Newcastle’s one Champions League calibre player but, worryingly, the brilliant French winger is prone to hamstring trouble. Similarly, the team have recently been hampered by the injury-induced absences of Wilson, their principal goalscorer, and the goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. Climbing the table hinges on that trio keeping fit.