Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s Steve Bruce sack stance could change this weekend vs Wolves

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Steve Bruce remains safe in his job as Newcastle manager – but he could be at risk of the sack if his side drop into the Premier League relegation zone this weekend according to reports. The Magpies take on Wolves on Saturday night with Fulham, one place them in the table, facing London rivals Crystal Palace in the 12pm kick-off the next day.

Scott Parker’s side are unbeaten in their last four, winning twice, while Newcastle have suffered three defeats in the same stretch.

Only Southampton have picked up less points than Bruce’s charges in 2021, with the north east side winning two and losing eight of their 10 top-flight games.

The contrasting form of the two teams mean Fulham can climb out of the bottom three if Newcastle lose to Wolves and they win at Selhurst Park the following day.

The Cottagers’ superior goal difference means if those two results occurred, they would go above Newcastle with both teams on 25 points from 25 games.

And the Newcastle-based Evening Chronicle say that if that scenario occurs, then owner Mike Ashley’s stance on sacking Bruce may change.

It is said that Sports Direct tycoon Ashley, who is currently out of the country, would have to pay a seven-figure sum to axe the ex-Birmingham, Sunderland, Hull and Aston Villa boss.

But that would be nothing compared to the money lost if Newcastle were to suffer a return to the Championship, which is a distinct possibility with 13 games left of the season.

A growing number of Newcastle fans have been keen for Bruce to be dismissed in recent months but Ashley has been reluctant to get involved, with the club owner focused on other business.

The defeat to his former club Manchester United at the weekend was Bruce’s 75th game in charge at St James’ Park, having overseen 23 wins, 19 draws and 33 defeats.

His 30 per cent win ratio is still superior to John Carver and Steve McClaren in the past 10 years but of Newcastle managers to oversee 50 games or more, no-one in the club’s history has a worse record.

Bruce was only 18 games into his reign as Sheffield Wednesday in 2019 when Newcastle paid £4million to take him from Hillsborough to act as Rafael Benitez’s replacement, the Spaniard having managed a 42 per cent win ratio across his 146 games at the helm.

In his first campaign, Bruce’s Newcastle finished 13th with 44 points, 10 off of 10th-placed Burnley. Bruce spoke in June and July of targeting a top-10 finish for the 2019-20 campaign and he recruited Callum Wilson, Jamal Lewis, Jeff Hendrick and Ryan Fraser in the summer.

But their form since back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and West Brom at the end of November and start of December reads two wins, two draws and 10 defeats.

And as a result Newcastle have been dragged into the basement battle, but Bruce has continued to keep his job with Ashley and Lee Charnley sympathetic to the club’s injury and COVID problems.

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Yet they may not be as supportive if Newcastle return to the bottom three for the first time since October 2019.

Newcastle have already been relegated twice in Ashley’s ownership, bouncing back at the first time of asking as second-tier champions in both 2010 and 2017.

And as he looks to sell the club to a Middle Eastern consortium, he can ill afford a return to the Championship due to the financial repercussions.

However, Bruce is confident they can avoid the drop and said: “Fulham have had a good week and won a couple of games, which at the bottom end of the table is big.

“But there are a few of us, Brighton, Burnley and maybe Crystal Palace looking over their shoulders. I’ve enjoyed coming to Old Trafford and having a go.

“But I need a few results and I’m quietly confident we’ll get the results. My message to the supporters is that I’m convinced we’ll be OK.”

The 60-year-old coach will remain in charge until at least this weekend with Wolves visiting St James’ Park at 8pm on Saturday.

The Magpies then have a massive fixture away at 19th-placed West Brom the following Sunday, the Baggies currently 11 points behind Newcastle although they have chipped away at that gap with recent draws against Manchester United and Burnley.

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