Outgoing Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce has admitted that the Magpies job could be his last in football, opening up on the mental toll of being labelled "a fat waste of space" and "tactically-inept cabbage head" by the club's own supporters.
Bruce was an unpopular choice when he took over at St James' Park in 2019, thanks to his previous spell in charge of Sunderland and his perceived negative tactics. Despite this, he did manage to keep his side clear of relegation trouble over the past two seasons.
That streak has come to an end this campaign though, with Newcastle currently 19th in the Premier League table after eight games.
His side's poor on-field fortunes, combined with the club's recent Saudi-backed takeover, meant that Bruce's days were always numbered and he finally left the club by mutual consent on Wednesday morning.
Following his departure, the 60-year-old admitted that the scrutiny he received at Newcastle affected him mentally and might have put him off football management for good.
“I think this might be my last job,” Bruce told The Telegraph. “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.”
Going into the job Bruce thought he was prepared for the criticism, but he admitted he had been taken aback by all the negative press.
"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 results-wise, 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.“
Newcastle will now turn their attention to appointing Bruce's replacement. 90min understands that the club have narrowed it down to three candidates: Eddie Howe, Paulo Fonseca and Lucien Favre, with final interviews set to take place on Wednesday.