Steve Bruce was always quietly confident he could handle the Newcastle job despite walking into a maelstrom on Tyneside.
The 58-year-old replaced Rafael Benitez in July amid fury from fans at the Spaniard’s departure after three largely successful seasons at the helm knowing he was not, in his own words, everybody’s “cup of tea”.
However, Bruce will return to Manchester United, the club he represented with such distinction as a player, on Boxing Day with the Magpies sitting in ninth place in the Premier League level on points with the Red Devils after 18 games, and starting to win over his critics.
He said: “I was always quietly confident that, having done what I’ve done, I could handle the job. It’s stood me in good stead and it needed to.
“Maybe 14 years ago, it might have been too big for me – although I might have been a bit more favourable back then.
“The experience I’ve had has certainly helped, but I’m not going to get carried away just because I’ve had a few results.”
The latest result came on Saturday when £21million January signing Miguel Almiron’s first goal for the club in his 27th appearance clinched a 1-0 win which, not for the first time this season, owed more to grit and spirit than it did to flowing football.
Bruce, who has given his players Christmas morning off before they head for Manchester later in the day, said: “I was just delighted for the lad himself, and I think everybody else who supports Newcastle and who has watched the team for the past 12 months was.
“Did I see a stat that it was his 47th attempt on target? It’s great for him and as I’ve said many times, he’s a great pro, great lad. He lights up the place every day with the way he works.
“When somebody is like that. You want them to succeed and do well, and let’s hope now it’s the start of a few.”
Bruce will make a late check on striker Andy Carroll, who set up Almiron to score, as he attempts to manage a path through the busy festive programme.
He said: “I’ve got to try to box clever. We’ll see how Andy is. He wants to play every week, but it would be unrealistic of me to think Andy could play two games in 48 hours.”
Defenders Paul Dummett and Jetro Willems are doubts with groin and knee problems respectively.