Steve Bruce retains Mike Ashley’s support as calls grow for his sacking

Steve Bruce remains safe in his job amid a tide of calls for him to go in the wake of an abject defeat at Brighton.

The PA news agency understands the 60-year-old retains the full support of owner Mike Ashley despite the club’s descent into a desperate fight for Premier League survival.

Saturday evening’s 3-0 defeat at the AMEX Stadium, which left the Magpies just two points clear of the relegation zone with nine games remaining after a run of only two wins in 18 league games, proved the final straw for many.

Neal Maupay scores the third goal in Newcastle's 3-0 loss to Brighton (Mike Hewitt/PA).
Neal Maupay scores the third goal in Newcastle’s 3-0 loss to Brighton (Mike Hewitt/PA).

Social media was awash with condemnation of Bruce’s reign and the Magpies’ prospects of avoiding the drop with even his friend and former skipper Alan Shearer describing the display on the South Coast as “abysmal” on Twitter.

In the immediate aftermath of another damaging defeat, the Toon For Change campaign group, which has repeatedly called for the head coach to be removed, demanded immediate action ahead of the international break.

In a statement, the group said: “We implore the club to remove Bruce as coach immediately and appoint an ambitious manager ahead of the international break, who has the capability of keeping Newcastle United in the Premier League.

“There is still hope for the club this season, but we’re running out of time.”

However, having seen Bruce maintain his defiant stance in his post-match interviews and insist once again that he would not walk away despite the mounting pressure, their plea went unanswered, and it appears that situation will not change in the short term.

Sources on Tyneside have indicated that Ashley, who is currently on business in the Middle East, admires the former Manchester United defender’s loyalty and commitment and will give him the chance to halt a slide which has gone beyond alarming.

That will infuriate a band of critics which has grown larger in both number and volume in recent months.

Bruce was never a popular appointment in the wake of predecessor Rafael Benitez’s defection to China after his fractious relationship with Ashley passed the point of no return, and his 20-month reign to date has done little to assuage the chorus of disapproval.

His team turned in another woeful display at Brighton after taking only three points from fixtures against Wolves, West Brom and Aston Villa, a return which has allowed resurgent Fulham to whittle away what was a double-digit safety margin just a few weeks ago.

They face Tottenham, in-form West Ham, Liverpool, Arsenal, Leicester and Manchester City in six of their next seven games and will find themselves in even deeper trouble before they welcome Sheffield United to St James’ Park ahead of a final-day trip to Craven Cottage if they do not arrest that decline.

A third relegation of Ashley’s near-14-year reign would halve the club’s revenue and perhaps more significantly, drastically reduce its value with the sportswear tycoon currently fighting a legal battle in his bid to sell it to Amanda Staveley’s Saudi-backed consortium.

His decision to stick with Bruce represents a major gamble and one many outside his inner circle simply cannot countenance.