We’ll take a long time getting round to it, but the question is simple enough: what possible interest was served by Steve Bruce refusing, if the reports are correct, to attend the post-match press conference? …
Salut! Sunderland supports Sunderland AFC with absolute passion. It was created by a journalist who started his career in the North East and later moved to Fleet Street (though he has also spent thousands of pounds and devoted countless hours to following the club since boyhood).
None of that will ever stop this site criticising SAFC when criticism seems merited, or criticising the press when that is merited, too.
A fair-minded review of the archive would show that we are short of neither commitment to SAFC nor a willingness to express forthright opinions. We raise eyebrows about transfers, tactics, policy decisions and all sorts of other matters on which supporters are fully entitled to take a view. We are happy to point out media idiocy when it seems to us to have occurred (as during the ludicrous Angeleri v Bruce saga).
We receive no favours from the club, and have effectively stopped hoping that any should be granted.
Niall Quinn did respond magnificently to a Salut! Sunderland request for a letter to be sent for use at the funeral of a supporter, but the only other contacts between site and club have barely been worth the effort on our part.
Once, when new shirts were unveiled and we offered to publicise them and maybe drive a few buyers towards the club shop, permission to show the tops was refused (Tombola, which sponsors the blasted things, has proved a happier hunting ground in that respect). There have been other instances of co-operation unreasonably denied, but none of sufficient interest to bear repeating; it is a scandalous state of affairs, as I believe, or entirely acceptable business practice, as the club undoubtedly sees it.
Equally, we expect and receive little mainstream media exposure beyond a link when Pete Sixsmith does the honours for The Observer‘s fans’ verdicts slot. So there are no further interests to declare, no real axes to grind.
And that, at long last, leads us to the point.
Steve Bruce must either produce a good reason for being absent from the post-Wigan press conference – pressing business elsewhere, a family crisis etc – or he should be told by the club in no uncertain terms that it is his duty, not his choice, to attend such occasions. The Guardian, more eloquent than the rest, said: “Perhaps celebrating, Bruce body-swerved the post-match press conference.” Most reports merely parroted the “did not conduct it” line put out by the Press Association and a few said he “snubbed” it.
The press is always a useful scapegoat when things go wrong. By and large, however, far worse things are said down the pub and at work about a team going through a frankly atrocious run, and about the manager and team responsible for that run, than will ever be found in the nastiest of newspaper reports.
And what about the electronic media?
OK, Steve still sent me his usual e-mail – whoever writes it, I hear some mischief-maker saying – but he also did the on-screen stuff after the match. Don’t football phone-ins include the same barbed comments you find in the press? Isn’t it perfectly easy to find destructive as well as constructive criticism on the TV and radio, and on TV and radio websites? If you wish to be principled, Steve, and say “up with this I will not put”, do not pick and choose in the pretence that it is always a case of printed press=bad, electronic media=good.
Steve Bruce is a talented man, was an outstanding footballer and may well be a great manager of Sunderland AFC. Writers and readers at Salut! Sunderland are divided on the last of those points, which is no more than a moderately intelligent person would expect given what we endured between Jan 22 and 10 minutes into Saturday’s second half. For the record, I believe – and have already stated – that the time to judge Steve Bruce on this season’s performance is some time after 6pm on May 22.
But it must also be pointed out that Steve is exceptionally well rewarded for what he does, pressure and all, and owes it to the public to accept the most robust criticism when the club is letting down its supporters week in, week out.
He must be as open as duty permits even if that requires him to meet a bunch of ghastly hacks in the SoL media room after a game. Once there, after a result as gratifying as Saturday’s, he can by all means rub noses in it. In my humble view, he has no reason to throw a tantrum and refuse to attend. And if there is a good reason for non-attendance, someone from the club should let that be known.
If the reports, including Eric Black’s apparent confirmation that he simply preferred not to attend, are wrong, Salut! Sunderland will apologise unreservedly.