Bruce hits out at ‘nonsense’ in bullish Newcastle debut
The 58-year-old was installed as Rafael Benitez’s replacement on Wednesday, as angry fans vented their displeasure at owner Mike Ashley’s running of the club.
In his first press conference, in Shanghai, Bruce made a staunch defence of his managerial record, while admitting on several occasions that he was “not everyone’s cup of tea”.
Bruce, whose appointment has gone down badly with Newcastle fans, partly because he was once in charge of fierce rivals Sunderland, cut a determined figure from the off.
A boyhood Newcastle fan, Bruce said that he was under “no illusions” about the task facing him — he called it the greatest challenge of his long managerial career.
His new side is among the Premier League relegation favourites before the season even begins and fans fed up with Ashley are threatening a boycott.
“My eyes are wide open, I’ve got big boots to fill,” said Bruce, referring to Benitez, who was hugely popular among fans but left last month to take up a job in China.
“But I’ve been around the block and I’ve said many times that I could not refuse it (the job).
“I am my own man and understand the challenge of what lies ahead, I am not everyone’s cup of tea, I am not Rafa Benitez.”
Addressing the wave of criticism that has greeted his arrival, Bruce said that he did not take it personally.
“(Otherwise) you would end up in a madhouse,” he said, on the eve of Newcastle’s friendly in Shanghai against West Ham United in the Premier League Asia Trophy.
“Just judge me over a period of time, I am quietly confident that I will do ok. The most important thing is to take the club forward,” he said.
The former Manchester United defender, now in his 11th job in football management, hopes to make at least two additions to a squad that is particularly thin up front.
Bruce was adamant that he will have “the first say” on who the club bring in, hitting out at what he called “nonsense” in the media that suggested otherwise.
“I am determined to grasp the opportunity and have a go,” he added.
“I am like all Geordies (wanting to manage the club) — and now I am living that dream. How lucky I am.
“But yes, I have to put up with some nonsense.”
Bruce, who turned down the chance to manage the club once before, met his players for the first time on Thursday, just hours after his arrival in China.
Newcastle was hammered 4-0 by Wolves on Wednesday in Nanjing, underlining the scale of the task facing Bruce, who quit as Sheffield Wednesday manager to take up the job.