Newcastle United will consider Frank Lampard and Paulo Fonseca as the next permanent manager at St. James' Park, sources told ESPN on Wednesday, after the club's new owners confirmed the departure of Steve Bruce by mutual consent.
Bruce, who took charge of his 1,000th competitive game as a manager during Sunday's 3-2 defeat at home to Tottenham, leaves Newcastle after two seasons in charge of his hometown club. During that period, Bruce guided Newcastle to 13th- and 12th-place finishes in the Premier League and runs to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
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But with the Saudi Arabia-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF) completing its £305 million takeover earlier this month by buying out former owner Mike Ashley, the new regime has opted to make a manager change with Newcastle in the Premier League relegation zone with just three points from eight games so far.
First-team coach Graeme Jones will take charge of the team on an interim basis against Crystal Palace this weekend, but sources have told ESPN that the new owners are determined to make a swift appointment at manager in an effort to halt the club's worrying run of form.
Former Chelsea manager Lampard and ex-Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk coach Fonseca are the leading candidates, sources have said, with both men out of work and available to take over immediately. Sources told ESPN that Fonseca is having a second interview later on Wednesday.
Lucien Favre, the former Borussia Dortmund coach, and ex-Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe are also in the frame, while Rangers boss Steven Gerrard and Belgium coach Roberto Martinez are more ambitious targets.
Chris Wilder, who left Sheffield United last season, is another name being considered, but sources have said that Lampard and Fonseca are the most appealing candidates to the PIF hierarchy.
In quotes reported by the Telegraph on Wednesday, Bruce said he had endured difficult moments during his time as manager at Newcastle.
"I think this might be my last job," the former Aston Villa, Hull City and Sunderland boss said. "It's not just about me; it's taken its toll on my whole family because they are all Geordies and I can't ignore that. They have been worried about me ... especially my wife, Jan. What an amazing woman she is, incredible, she's just a fantastic woman, wife and mother and grandmother. She dealt with the death of my parents, hers have not been very well. And then she had me to worry about and what I've been going through the last couple of years.
"I can't take her for granted, she has spent her whole life following me around from football club to football club, and if I was to say to her tomorrow, I've been offered a job in China, or anywhere, she would say, 'Steve, is this right for you, do you want to do it?' And she'd back me again. I'm 60 years old, and I don't know if I want to put her through it again. We've got a good life so, yeah, this will probably be me done as a manager -- until I get a phone call from a chairman somewhere asking if I can give them a hand. Never say never, I've learnt that."
"I really have to thank all the people who have worked alongside me, because I can be demanding and I can be hard work -- especially when I was younger. When we get beat, I get very low, but when you are managing in the Premier League with Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic, Hull, Sunderland, you do get better at dealing with it. You have to. By the time I got to Newcastle, I thought I could handle everything thrown at me, but it has been very, very tough. To never really be wanted, to feel that people wanted me to fail, to read people constantly saying I would fail, that I was useless, a fat waste of space, a stupid, tactically inept cabbage head or whatever. And it was from day one.
"When we were doing OK resultswise, it was, 'Yeah, but the style of football is rubbish' or I was just 'lucky.' It was ridiculous and persistent, even when the results were good. The best one was to be told we were a relegation team in all but points. ... This was all in the first season. We finished 13th. It [the criticism and abuse] got even worse in the second year. We finished 12th, 17 points clear of the bottom three. I tried to enjoy it and, you know, I did. I've always enjoyed the fight, proving people wrong, but that's all it ever seemed to be. A fight, a battle. It does take its toll because even when you win a game, you don't feel like you are winning over the supporters."