Newcastle United will not be able to take the ‘next level’ and compete in the middle of the table until Mike Ashley sells the club.

That’s the point of view of John Barnes, who also believes Steve Bruce is “ doing as well as any manager could ” after two difficult seasons at Tyneside.

The Magpies head coach has been the subject of regular scrutiny by fans and pundits since taking over from Rafa Benitez at the St James’ Park hotseat in the summer of 2019.

Bruce guided Newcastle to an honorable 13th place and FA Cup quarter-final in his debut season, but calls for his departure intensified after an appalling streak of two wins in 21 matches in his second campaign.

Humiliating losses at Brighton and Sheffield United as well as a sad Carabao Cup exit at Brentford have seen Bruce become the bookmakers’ favorite to become the next Premier League manager to lose his job.

However, an impressive late-season upturn freed United from relegation danger and finished 12th.

Former Newcastle winger Barnes has been asked if Bruce deserves recognition after another tumultuous season at Tyneside.

He said Betting Odds: “For where Newcastle is now, the next level for them is at half-table right now in time. If Mike Ashley sells the club and they hire someone the fans love and spend more money on the players, they can start moving on.

“In the current climate, Steve Bruce is doing as well as any manager could. Newcastle shouldn’t look to the next level. They should be looking for stability and the best they can hope for is around the mid-table.

“This season it was probably the best thing for them that there weren’t any fans there. The fans would have been negative because of the way they were playing and I could have seen them being relegated.

“Unfortunately for Steve, as long as Mike Ashley is the owner, when the fans come back there will be this negativity that will affect him and the team.”

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