It’s been a rough old season for Newcastle, hasn’t it?
Their squad was one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, they’re just two points clear of the relegation zone, and fans haven’t even been allowed in to St James’ Park once this season to air their grievances (rivals Sunderland are the masters of this).
Though a Geordie himself, manager Steve Bruce has been unable to win over the supporters. His style of play has made games a slog to watch and they aren’t producing adequate enough results, and they could even fall into the Championship for the third time in just over a decade if they aren’t careful.
His appointment in 2019 followed the departure of the wildly popular Rafa Benitez, who was often seen at odds with owner Mike Ashley. But Bruce wasn’t the only name that the board had lined up to replace the Spaniard.
While Bruce was managing Sheffield Wednesday, The Athletic write that Newcastle had admired the work of Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder, who had guided the Blades to their second promotion in three years.
The report doesn’t mention any interest being followed up with great haste, and it would have been bold of Newcastle to appoint such a relative unknown at the time to replace someone of Benitez’s stature. Appointing Bruce was a much safer option.
Despite Sheffield United’s shortcomings this season, there’s no doubt that Wilder is a good manager. Guiding his boyhood club to a ninth-placed finish in their first season back in the Premier League, just two points behind Arsenal, was one of last year’s most impressive managerial feats.
Ironically, he finished ten points and four places clear of Bruce’s Newcastle, though both clubs could find themselves back in the second tier for the start of the 2021/22 season.