Steve Bruce’s Newcastle No2 fires back at "out of order" accusations about squad

Steve Bruce’s former No. 2 has hit back at accusations the players were on easy street during the 60-year-old’s time in charge at Newcastle.

The departures of coaches Steve Agnew and Steve Clemence were officially announced this week, a month after Bruce left St James’ Park with new Toon chief Eddie Howe bringing in his new backroom team.

And while the reshuffle has gone down well with the fans, Agnew is bemused by some of the flak flying around in recent weeks.

When Howe turned up at the training ground before 7am on his first day as Magpies’ boss, his work ethic was hailed.

But Agnew, Gareth Southgate’s right-hand man when the pair worked at Middlesbrough, insists much of the criticism has been unfair and factually wrong.

“As a coaching team, we worked tirelessly in a bid to improve the squad,” said Agnew, who left the club on amicable terms.

“Whether it was on the training pitch, watching videos, analysing data or just discussing tactics, we certainly put the hours in.

“To say there were too many days off or that the players got off lightly is out of order.

“Whenever we did give them time off, it was only after taking advice from the sports scientists.

“Of course, you’re always judged on results and the fact is this season we knew we were under the pump because it just didn’t happen for us.

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“Good luck to Eddie and his team. It’s an exciting time and we wish him all the best.”

Bruce has been in Dubai watching the Twenty20 World Cup with his family and has yet to make a firm decision on his future.

But despite hinting that managing his hometown club could be his last in football, Agnew isn’t so sure.

“Steve still has a lot to offer,” he added. “His passion for the game is still there so it wouldn’t surprise me if he came back.

“What seems to be forgotten is his eye for talent.

“During his time at Hull and then Aston Villa, he signed the likes of Harry Maguire, Andy Robertson, John McGinn and Jarrod Bowen for relative peanuts so you’d think plenty of owners would be interested in someone with that record.

“And his man-management skills are second to none.”

Agnew, who had a brief spell in charge of Boro following Aitor Karanka’s exit, would love another crack at management.

But he’d also jump at the chance of working with Bruce again.

“Steve, myself and Steve Clemence have had some great times together and hopefully, there’s another adventure waiting for us,” he said.

“From a personal point of view, I’ve been very fortunate to work closely with great managers like Steve and Gareth and have no intention of drifting out of the game.”

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