Lee believed that any manager would have struggled to replace the fan favourite, but compared Bruce to Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson when describing what it takes to succeed in the North East.
Speaking to the Chronicle, Lee described how the club needed someone who understood the area and the people in it, and that Bruce fits perfectly into that category.
“There is nobody really that Newcastle could have brought in after Benitez that would have been immune because the fans loved Rafa,” he said.
“I’ve always said that the best managers at Newcastle have been Kevin Keegan and Bobby Robson. They got the area, the people and the fans. They understood what it meant and I think Steve Bruce does as well.”
Bruce has guided Newcastle to four points in as many games at the beginning of the season, with a win over Tottenham and a draw last time out against Watford.
For Lee to compare Bruce to the likes of Keegan and Robson seems a little far-fetched. Yes, he did mean in terms of the fans needs and desires, and even if it is his boyhood club, it will still take the Magpies’ boss more time to fully understand what it is to be the manager of Newcastle. Keegan has one of the best win percentages in the club’s history from his first spell in charge of the club with 54.98%, whereas Robson also oversaw a successful period in charge, with a win percentage of 46.67% [Source: Manager Stats]. Bruce, on the other hand, entered the job at Newcastle as one of only two managers to have taken charge of over 250 Premier Lague games but have a win percentage of under 30% [Duncan Alexander] – hardly a comparison to make. Bruce would need to pull off something special during his tenure at Newcastle to even be slightly compared to two of Newcastle’s finest ever managers.