With the takeover of Newcastle United now complete, attention turns to who will man the dugout moving forward.
Steve Bruce has grown unpopular with the Magpies support thanks to a perception that he fails to get the best out of his best players and a turgid style of play. At present, Newcastle are languishing in the bottom three without a Premier League win all season.
It’s thought Bruce has little chance of holding onto his job long term once the new owners get their seats warm. So, with that in mind, who are the favourites to succeed him?
Antonio Conte – 7/2
For new owners, the first hire can often be the most important. It’s hard to think of a bigger statement Amanda Staveley and Co. could make than signing the currently-unattached Antonio Conte. The Italian finally overhauled Juventus’ nine-year spell of dominance (that he started) last season, leading Inter to the Serie A title, while he’s also tasted Premier League and FA Cup success with Chelsea.
Alongside his impressive silverware collection, Conte is a tactical innovator and his 3-5-2 system could make the best use of Newcastle’s collection of decent centre-backs. And his name alone stands a good chance of attracting some star talent to St. James’ Park.
Roberto Martinez – 4/1
Roberto Martinez is arguably the most complicated of the favourites. On the one hand, he did brilliantly to keep Wigan in the Premier League as long as he did, not to mention winning the FA Cup. Then there was Everton. The Spaniard led the Toffees to a club-record 72 Premier League points and a fifth-place finish in 2013/14, but could only manage consecutive 11th-place finishes thereafter, becoming extremely unpopular due to some uninspiring possession football and horrendous defending. That said, alongside his FA Cup win with the Latics, Martinez did lead the Toffees to FA Cup and League Cup semi-finals in his final season in charge and clearly knows his way around knockout tournaments. The desire for silverware is strong in the North East, so this could be a better match than first meets the eye.
Of course, Martinez has also regained some respect with the Belgian national team, leading them to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals. But international football is a totally different animal to the demands he’d face in front of over 50,000 Newcastle fans.
Steven Gerrard – 7/1
Steven Gerrard has flown up the betting markets for the Newcastle job. But given his success north of the border with Rangers and previous links to Premier League jobs, it’s honestly more surprising he wasn’t up there in the first place.
Gerrard has already shown his fondness for attacking football and an ability to cultivate young talent. What’s more, Ryan Kent has been one of his biggest stars in Glasgow, suggesting he could get the very best out of Allan Saint-Maximin at St James’ Park. The French winger is comfortably Newcastle’s most exciting player, but it can often feel like he’s dragging a boulder up a hill in black and white. Kent himself would likely relish the chance to move south of the border with his manager, as would a proven goalscorer like Alfredo Morelos.
Stepping it up to the Premier League will be a totally different challenge, but you can’t accuse him of lacking experience there as a player, can you…
Eddie Howe – 8/1
When Eddie Howe left Bournemouth in August 2020, most expected him to be picked up pretty quickly but, thus far, he’s remained without a job. Currently the fourth-favourite to take over from Bruce, Howe is credited with a much more attractive style of play and did brilliantly to take the Cherries all the way up to the Premier League, keeping them there for a number of years. Concerns remain around his defensive capabilities, but Howe would definitely get the best out of the likes of Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron, who is at his best when playing in a forward-thinking, counter-attacking side.
What’s more, Howe has already worked with and got the best from the likes of Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Matt Ritchie during their days together at Bournemouth. The former two, in particular, could seriously supercharge Newcastle’s attack at least in the short term, if only they had a manager familiar with them and able to set up to their strengths.