Newcastle United's new owners are set for talks with Paulo Fonseca over their head coach role after sacking Steve Bruce on Wednesday.
The 60-year-old was expected to be replaced by the new Saudi Arabian-backed consortium last week after they completed their £305m takeover, but he remained in charge for his 1000th game as manager - a 3-2 defeat to Tottenham.
After a blistering start, going 1-0 up, Bruce's side capitulated in front of non-executive chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan and director Amanda Staveley at St James' Park, and the defeat left them second-bottom of the Premier League and winless from their opening eight games.
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Newcastle confirmed on Wednesday that the process of recruiting a new head coach is underway, and Sky Sports News understands the former Roma boss Fonseca, who was a candidate for Tottenham in the summer, has emerged as a leading contender.
Eddie Howe, who has been without a job since leaving Bournemouth in summer 2020, and former Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre, are thought to also be among the other candidates.
Jose Mourinho, who is Fonseca's replacement at Roma, ruled himself out of the running on Wednesday, stating: "I signed up for three years. I'm not leaving these guys. I've decided."
Assistant coach Graeme Jones will lead the team on an interim basis, starting with Saturday's trip to Crystal Palace.
Bruce: This could be my last job
Bruce guided the club to 13th and 12th-place finishes in his two years in charge but faced persistent hostility from supporters, who often criticised his style of play.
Speaking to The Telegraph after his departure, Bruce said: "I think this might be my last job. It's not just about me; it's taken its toll on my whole family because they are all Geordies and I can't ignore that.
It has been very, very tough. To never really be wanted, to feel that people wanted me to fail and saying I would fail, that I was useless, a fat waste of space, a tactically inept cabbage head.
"They have been worried about me… especially my wife Jan. What an amazing woman she is, incredible, she's just a fantastic woman, wife and mother and grandmother. She dealt with the death of my parents, hers have not been very well. And then she had me to worry about and what I've been going through the last couple of years.
"I can't take her for granted, she has spent her whole life following me around from football club to football club and if I was to say to her tomorrow, I've been offered a job in China, or anywhere, she would say, 'Steve, is this right for you, do you want to do it?' And she'd back me again.
"I'm 60 years old and I don't know if I want to put her through it again. We've got a good life so, yeah, this will probably be me done as a manager - until I get a phone call from a chairman somewhere asking if I can give them a hand. Never say never, I've learnt that."
Revealing the abuse he has faced, Bruce added: "It has been very, very tough. To never really be wanted, to feel that people wanted me to fail and saying I would fail, that I was useless, a fat waste of space, a tactically inept cabbage head."
What would Fonseca bring?
Sky Sports' Nick Wright:
Paulo Fonseca has emerged as the front-runner to replace Steve Bruce at St James' Park and if he does get the job, Newcastle supporters can expect attacking football and plenty of entertainment.
Indeed, it was his devotion to an attack-minded playing style that scuppered a potential move to Tottenham during the summer, the 48-year-old insisting the club's managing director Fabio Paratici favoured a more defensive brand of football.
"The best way to defend is to have the ball," said Fonseca in an interview with the Telegraph. "We have an obligation with supporters to create a spectacle, a good show. I have to be offensive and dominate the games... These are things which will die with me."
Fonseca, 48, has been honing his preferred playing style throughout a managerial career which began in 2007. He started out in his native Portugal and, following spells in charge of Pacos Ferreira, Porto and Braga, where he won the Portuguese Cup, he moved to Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk and later Roma.
Fonseca spent the last two seasons at Roma, finishing fifth and seventh in Serie A before being replaced by Jose Mourinho, but he was more successful at Shakhtar, winning three consecutive league and cup doubles and enjoying good moments in Europe too.
Most memorably, in December 2017, his Shakhtar side clinched a 2-1 win over Pep Guardiola's Manchester City to secure a place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Fonseca has been turning heads in the Premier League ever since, attracting interest from Everton and West Ham before this summer's approach by Tottenham, but it may now be at Newcastle that he gets his first chance in England.
'Bruce was a symbol of the previous regime'
The PIF, worth £700bn, owns an 80 per cent share in the club after completing its takeover from Mike Ashley, and director Staveley has already outlined the board's ambition to win the Premier League.
Staveley is a chief executive at PCP Capital Partners, who are part of the investment group, along with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) and RB Sports & Media.
But in a statement prior to Sunday's game, Staveley said the club wanted to be "patient and considered" in their approach and that "change doesn't happen overnight".
Newcastle's tough 10 months - PL records since December 16
|Fewest wins||Fewest points||Most goals conceded|
|Southampton - 6||Southampton - 27||Newcastle - 65|
|Newcastle - 7||Newcastle - 31||C Palace - 62|
|Burnley - 8||Burnley - 33||Southampton - 61|
|C Palace - 8||C Palace - 35||Burnley 50|
Speaking after Newcastle's 3-2 defeat to Tottenham on Sunday, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp said Bruce looked like someone who would welcome being relieved of his duties.
"My feeling when I look at him is that he'd almost like to be put out of his misery as well," said Redknapp. "He looks like a man who has done as much as he can, and he is a symbol of the previous regime.
"He'll be hating every second of it, nobody enjoys that unless you have something wrong with you. He doesn't want to be here. I think he'll be relieved when he gets that phone call."
You are, without a doubt, one of the most gentle people that I have ever met in the world of football. You have been a man of your word, a caring man and a fair man who never hesitated to protect us. I will never forget how you treated me, for that I will be forever grateful pic.twitter.com/lJgSL5GD4Q— Allan Saint-Maximin (@asaintmaximin) October 20, 2021
I know how tough it was for any manager at Newcastle for the last 14 years.I also know how badly Steve & his family wanted it to work. In difficult circumstances for everybody, he kept #NUFC up for two seasons. It’s a new era now, but thank you, Steve,for your effort & commitment— Alan Shearer (@alanshearer) October 20, 2021
The stats that cost Bruce
Bruce's Newcastle have picked up just three points from a possible 24 this season. Only once have Newcastle made a worse start to a Premier League season. In 2018-19, Rafael Benitez's side picked up just three points from their opening 10 games - but went onto finish 13th.
No side has conceded more Premier League goals than Newcastle this season. They've shipped 19 goals in their opening eight games. That makes it their joint-worst ever start defensively to a Premier League season - they also conceded 19 in their opening eight in 1999-2000 under Ruud Gullit and Bobby Robson (went onto finish 11th).
In fact, Newcastle have conceded the most Premier League goals since Bruce's appointment in July 2019. They have also faced the most shots per game of any Premier League side.
Newcastle's defensive problems - since August 2019
|Most Premier League goals conceded||Most shots faced per game|
|Newcastle - 139||Newcastle - 15.1|
|Southampton - 138||Aston Villa - 14.9|
|Crystal Palace - 129||Burnley - 14.7|
|Aston Villa - 125||Crystal Palace - 13.7|
|West Ham - 119||Tottenham - 13.7|
The Magpies have won only three of their last 17 Premier League home games and a worrying statistic is that St James' Park has not seen back-to-back Premier League home wins since December 2019. They've also kept just two clean sheets in their last 27 Premier League home games.
Interestingly Bruce won exactly the same number of points as Benitez did in each of their two full PL seasons at the club. Bruce's side scored three more goals but conceded 25 more goals when compared to Benitez.
Howey: Bruce sacking inevitable
Former Newcastle defender Steve Howey:
"It was an inevitable announcement. When new owners come in, they look to change things around. It may have been different had results been decent, but a lot of Newcastle fans had lost patience because the results weren't great. They've conceded more than anyone in the Premier League this season and obviously are yet to win a game.
"While Bruce will be hurt by some of the criticism, some of which did overstep the mark, he will come back refreshed and look for another challenge."
'Bruce exit dragged on... he'd had enough'
Sky Sports News reporter Keith Downie:
"It's been a really difficult time and I suppose the supporters will say it's been a really difficult time for them. Certainly it's been a tough time for Steve Bruce as well given the uncertainty that's been circling over his head since the takeover was ratified just under two weeks ago.
"It's been intense. We heard from him at his news conference on Friday when he had a little bit of a pop at the media for some of the reporting all week, accusing us of wanting him to get the sack but I have to say that was never the case.
"Everything we reported last week was based on what we were told would happen. What has happened today in him departing the club with Graeme Jones placed in charge on an interim basis is pretty much what I was reporting last week.
"It has dragged on for longer than the new owners wanted and what Bruce wanted himself. It's important to say that in the club statement they said it was mutual consent so Bruce wanted to go as well. He'd had enough as it had got very difficult for him emotionally. He knew he was going anyway and I think he's pleased that he's been put out of his misery.
"It's a relief for Bruce and for the supporters who have already made it clear that they want to have a new manager to front the new regime. A line has needed to be drawn under things and it's no real surprise.
"It's an £8m pay-off for Bruce and it should be added that Amanda Staveley and her husband Mehrdad Ghoudoussi are at the club's training ground this morning to speak to players and existing backroom staff."
October 23: Crystal Palace vs Newcastle - 3pm kick-off
October 30: Newcastle vs Chelsea - 3pm kick-off
November 6: Brighton vs Newcastle - 5.30pm kick-off
November 20: Newcastle vs Brentford - 3pm kick-off
November 27: Arsenal vs Newcastle - 12.30pm kick-off
November 30: Newcastle vs Norwich - 7.30pm kick-off
December 4: Newcastle vs Burnley - 3pm kick-off
December 12: Leicester vs Newcastle - 2pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports
December 16: Liverpool vs Newcastle - 8pm kick-off
December 19: Newcastle vs Man City - 2pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports
December 27: Newcastle vs Man Utd - 8pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports
December 30: Everton vs Newcastle - 7.30pm kick-off