Newcastle skipper Jamaal Lascelles has called for a united front after Steve Bruce was announced as the club’s new head coach.
Bruce’s appointment has not gone down well with fans who were desperate for Rafael Benitez to extend his stay at St James’ Park and some have called for a boycott of the opening Premier League fixture against Arsenal on August 11 in protest at owner Mike Ashley’s running of the club.
However, speaking ahead of the club’s opening pre-season fixture against Wolves in the Premier League Asia Trophy in Nanjing, Lascelles urged players, staff and fans to pull together.
The defender told Sky Sports: “I’ve always said it, we’ve just got to stick together as one, that’s the best thing we can do.
“We can’t go pointing a finger or having a go at anyone, we’ve just got to stick together, that’s the best way.”
Academy coaches Ben Dawson and Neil Redfearn have taken charge of training since the players returned from their summer breaks and while Lascelles has been impressed by their work, he is happy Bruce is now in post.
He said: “We’re all looking forward to it. We’ve been waiting for him to come in. There’s been speculation and now it’s confirmed, we’re pleased and we’re looking forward to it.
“He’s a very well-known manager who’s done well in the Premier League and the Championship.
“We’ve been working hard with Ben and Neil – they’ve done a great job and the rest of the staff have helped us out as well.
“Now the manager has come in, we’re really looking forward to it.”
Former Magpies striker Shola Ameobi also welcomed the appointment as an antidote to the uncertainty which has engulfed the club in recent weeks.
However, he admitted recruitment during what remains of the transfer window will be key with Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez, who scored 23 league goals between them last season, no longer on the books.
Ameobi said: “Ultimately, they were our goals last year and we all know, especially in the Premier League, goalscorers come at a premium. I know Steve will be coming in, that will be his priority.
“In terms of the squad, we’ve got a decent squad and that is the void we need to fill straight away.
“It’s very hard to make signings without a manager and ultimately, the manager has to make those decisions.
“Hopefully Steve will be coming in knowing what he needs to do. Whether or not we can get that over the line is another question because the time frame is very short.
“He has got all the experience in the world, he’s been doing this a long time and he’s got broad shoulders. I think he’ll be able to cope with the demands of this job.”
However, a statement issued on behalf of nine fans’ groups left the new man in little doubt as to their feelings over his appointment.
It said: “Steve Bruce is an unambitious appointment by an unambitious owner. To go from a world-class manager in Rafa Benitez, who brought stability and unity to the club to Steve Bruce – who frankly wouldn’t get a job at any other Premier League side right now – in the space of six weeks is beyond disappointing.
“Most Premier League clubs look to the continent or lower divisions for young, promising, forward-thinking managers in the mould of Pochettino, Gracia and Santo – who bring a new brand of football to a highly-competitive league.
“In Bruce, Mike Ashley has opted for a manager who has been relegated from the league numerous times – he isn’t even a safe pair of hands.
“Bruce’s appointment is testament to Ashley’s continued mismanagement of Newcastle United football Club, which has been the hallmark of his tenure. It’s now time for him to sell the club to a party that genuinely wants to take the club forward.”
Copy provided by Press Association Sport
Newcastle have appointed Steve Bruce as Rafael Benitez’s replacement as their search for a new manager finally came to a close.
The Magpies have confirmed the 58-year-old Geordie has left his job at Sheffield Wednesday to become the 10th permanent boss of controversial owner Mike Ashley’s 12-year-plus reign on a three-year deal.
A club statement said: “Newcastle can now announce that Steve Bruce has been appointed as the club’s new head coach.
“The 58-year-old, who was born in Corbridge, Northumberland and raised in Wallsend, returns to Tyneside after signing an initial three-year contract and will be joined at St James’ Park by coaches Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence.”
Bruce and his staff are due to fly out to China to meet up with the players, who open their Premier League Asia Trophy campaign against Wolves in Nanjing on Wednesday morning.
The new boss said: “I’m delighted and incredibly proud to be appointed as head coach of Newcastle. This is my boyhood club and it was my dad’s club, so this is a very special moment for me and my family.
“There is a huge challenge ahead of us, but it’s one that my staff and I are ready for. We’ll roll our sleeves up and we’ll be giving it everything from the off to ensure supporters have a successful team that they can be proud of.”
Bruce’s arrival is unlikely to placate fans still fuming at Benitez’s exit a little more than three years after the club failed to agree a contract extension with the 59-year-old Spaniard, who has since taken over at Chinese club Dalian Yifang.
However, managing director Lee Charnley was delighted to have got his man after lengthy negotiations with the Owls over a compensation package.
Charnley said: “Steve has a deep affection for Newcastle and we are very pleased a coach with his vast experience and connections to the club and city has joined us.
“Steve knows what this club means to supporters and to the region and he will put his heart and soul into leading our talented group of players with the full support of our staff.
“The hard work for Steve and his team starts immediately and we will be fully prepared for the challenge of a new Premier League season.”
Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has revealed he spoke to Laurent Koscielny three times in a forlorn attempt to get his captain on the club’s pre-season tour.
The Gunners announced last week that the former France international had refused to fly to the United States and PA understands his decision came after his request to have his contract terminated and find a new club was rejected, with disciplinary proceedings due as a result.
Without Koscielny, a young Arsenal side eased to a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids in their first game of pre-season as new signing Gabriel Martinelli impressed, scoring the third goal after Bukayo Saka and James Olayinka had put the visitors in charge.
After the game, Emery was quizzed on the situation regarding Koscielny and the Spaniard admitted he had spoken to the 33-year-old defender on numerous occasions but had been unable to convince him to travel.
“He started training with us this pre-season and I spoke with him three times for his situation,” Emery said at his post-match press conference.
“We wanted him to come with us on this tour but he decided to stay. Now it is a matter for the club and for the player.
“We spoke with a good spirit for both the team and him but this is his decision, only his decision. He’s speaking only with the club.”
It remains to be seen if Koscielny has a future at the Emirates Stadium following his decision and he continues to be linked with a return to France.
He could yet buy out the remainder of his deal to allow him to move for free, but Emery insists he remains an “important” part of his squad at this stage.
“He has one year left on his contract,” Emery added.
“For me as a coach he’s an important player. Now it’s one matter for him and the club. The club and him need to speak, they are speaking about his situation.
“I cannot say more than that. I spoke with him before he came here and he decided to stay there.
“Really I cannot say more about that. For me now it’s clear we need to keep moving ahead. We’re here with the players who have the spirit to create the new way.
“Laurent Koscielny for me, now, I’m waiting on his decision with the club.”