Steve Bruce says he is fed up with “conspiracy theories” surrounding Graeme Jones’s installation as Newcastle’s assistant head coach and does not regard the newcomer as “a threat”.
“I reiterate again he was my first choice,” said Bruce, who seems irked by suggestions that Jones is being positioned to potentially replace him and replied “no” to an inquiry as to whether he regarded the former Bournemouth first-team coach as a threat. “We were talking about him weeks ago when we first discussed bringing someone in to help us. I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I wish I could put all these conspiracies to bed.”
Jones, who has managed Luton and served as Belgium’s No 2 under Roberto Martínez – has joined Bruce’s assistants Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence in an expanded backroom as Newcastle aim to steer clear of relegation waters.
Despite a recent improvement in performances, the team have won only one of their past 12 Premier League games – and one in 14 in all competitions. When Agnew recently spent five weeks sidelined by Covid-19, the hierarchy decided the manager needed additional help.
Jones assumed a dominant technical area role during last Saturday’s win at Everton but the Gateshead-born 50-year-old was spotted in the stands at the start of Tuesday’s home defeat by Crystal Palace. Bruce pointed out that his new assistant had descended to the dugout area after “10 or 15 minutes” and had initially merely “wanted to look at things from higher up” before joining his colleagues. “There was no problem,” said Newcastle’s manager.
Bruce is expected to give Joe Willock, his midfield loan signing from Arsenal, a debut at home to Southampton on Saturday, although Willock could begin on the bench against a side thrashed 9-0 by Manchester United in midweek.
The bookmakers’ Premier League favourite for the sack is wary of Southampton’s potential response, particularly as injury has deprived him of two key central defenders in Jamaal Lascelles and Federico Fernández. Ciaran Clark could also be absent after his partner went into labour on Friday, and Jamal Lewis and Paul Dummett are doubtful.