Poor Steve Bruce. After finally landing his dream role as manager of Newcastle United a couple of years ago, he looks set to be ousted just after the club suddenly became one of the biggest financial powerhouses in football.
But as the door closes for Bruce, it leaves one open for his successor – enter, Graeme Jones.
90min understands the 51-year-old is likely to be in charge for Newcastle’s home game against Tottenham this weekend (and possibly beyond). But who is Jones and why is he the man being trusted to help lead the Magpies into this new era?
Here’s everything you need to know about Newcastle’s next boss.
Jones’ decision to pursue a career in football meant he left the North East as a teenager and signed for Millwall’s academy – only to be released aged 18. Ouch.
But he told The Coaches’ Voice that this experience and the ones that subsequently followed shaped who he is today. He began working as an insulation engineer while working his way through the non-league system, eventually re-entering the Football League years later.
“That grounding taught me the power of being real. It allowed me to evaluate myself and what I wanted in life,” Jones said.
Jones’ playing career was largely spent middling in the lower leagues of England and Scotland, yet he would still somehow end up coaching two of the best international sides of the last decade – ‘how?’ I hear you ask.
Well, Jones’ first foray into coaching saw him become assistant manager to Roberto Martinez at Swansea in 2007 while the club were in League One. He then followed the Spaniard to Wigan and Everton, before eventually reuniting with the Belgium national team.
After impressing behind the scenes with the Red Devils, Jones joined Gareth Southgate’s coaching team for Euro 2020. Some journey up from the third tier of English football.
But while Jones is widely respected as a coach, his CV as the main man is less than impressive.
His only managerial gig to date came with Luton Town, who had just been promoted to the Championship, but Jones was insistent on them going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best sides.
After a torrid record of just 12 wins in 41 games and the club on the brink of relegation, Jones and the Hatters parted ways, with Luton just about saving themselves from the drop in time.
Jones was born in nearby Gateshead and supported Newcastle as a kid.
“I’m proud to be here at the team I supported as a boy, and all of my life. During my playing and coaching career, it has always been the first result I would look for after my own,” he said after joining the club as a coach at the start of 2021.
“Now, I’ve hopefully got a chance to have a direct influence on results and the future of the football club, which is something I’m very excited for.”
You can imagine him peddling more of these lines in his first presser as interim boss…
Newcastle striker Callum Wilson, who had worked with Jones at Bournemouth, praised his arrival earlier this year in an interview with The Athletic, insisting that his different way of seeing the game to Bruce would help the team.
“I think Graeme Jones coming in as a coach definitely complemented the manager because he’s a little bit more tactically aware and up to date, whereas the manager has his different strengths and attributes.”
Is that to say Bruce isn’t tactically aware or up to date? Look, we cannot possibly comment on such speculation…
One of Jones’ self-admitted key strengths is his ‘strong personality’, an ability to be up-front with anyone and everyone in order to get them to see football the way he does.
He believes that players have to earn the right to be trusted on a pitch and on the ball, and that while he is 95% ‘new school’, the remaining 5% doesn’t make him a ‘dinosaur’ and that he would prefer his teams to play possession football.
Newcastle fans will certainly be hoping that’s the case after getting on Bruce’s back for so long.