Steve Bruce has been around football long enough to realise why people are calling for his head today. Some have been questioning his survival as manager for a little while. It goes without saying that anyone who disagrees- Martin in Canada? – should contact Salut! Sunderland, which will find room for the opposing view. But our shadily cantakerous Birflatt Boy is no mood to grant a reprieve. It is hard-hitting, maybe harsh stuff and M Salut would take issue here and there. But these are parlous times for SAFC; supporters now seeing yet another the season unravel can hardly be blamed for feeling aggrieved …
How many more nails to close this coffin?
Football managers can make some horrible decisions. Selling or buying players in transfer deals that should never have seen the light of day, dropping key men in vital games, getting tactics hopelessly wrong (if they ever had any tactics at all) and usually ringing up a series of poor results.
In our case, this combination of shortcomings and blunders has led to relegation on more occasions than people of a certain age can remember without wincing.
Maybe there is more scrutiny of managerial decisions these days with a broader media spotlight on what goes on at a club. Be that as it may, we – Sunderland AFC- now reside a few places and a few points above the relegation trap door.
Four points accumulated out of a possible 33 (and three of them against hapless Wigan) tells a sorry tale.
In his MOTD interview last weekend Steve Bruce suggested that there was a need for an inquiry into the number and severity of soft tissue injuries that has hampered Sunderland’s season. Only seven players have completed 60 per cent of games. Week after week we are losing a couple of players in the first 20 minutes of games due to hamstring pulls and other strains. The severity and recurrence of these problems is surely not merely the result of ill fortune.
Players such as Campbell, Meyler, Mensah, Welbeck etc have all been brought back from injury dangerously too soon. Players have been sold and not replaced. Not just this season but for the whole of his tenure. Danny Collins has never been replaced despite the fact that Bruce claimed to have only sold him in the firm belief that Maynor Figueroa was on his way in. That was two years ago.
Kenwyne Jones and Darren Bent’s departures fall are of a similar stripe. We were short, Bent went and no replacement was acquired. Campbell comes back too early and now his career seems to be in the balance. Going into the last three games of the season without the injured Gyan, Welbeck, and Campbell, you would think that the only fit striker at the club, Ryan Noble would have been kept at home in the confines of bubble wrap wouldn’t you? That’s what most managers would do. Not Steve Bruce. Noble gets to play in a meaningless midweek fixture and gets an ankle injury.
We start against Fulham with Steed Malbranque and Stéphane Sessegnon up front. Sessegnon has played there, but Malbranque hasn’t found the net for years and has an appalling goals tally for a midfield player. An inability to shoot is a hurdle for a forward player and it’s a higher hurdle for Steed than most.
The result, of course, was that we didn’t score. Steed was not helped by the supply of the “Egyptian Beckham,” a player who has failed to produce any service of note from the right flank all season but invariably gets a game ahead of a man with the best cv of any outfield player currently at the club; Bolo Zenden.
Elmo is still a loanee, and we can only hope that his stay is short and that he never becomes a Sunderland player. He is quite simply hopeless, and there is nothing else that needs saying about him.
The other loanees such as Muntari, Onouha, and Welbeck have no vested interest of SAFC. Whilst it may be the case that all footballers are mercenaries these days, that epithet is even more appropriate for loaned players. Muntari’s contribution to our cause has been so lamentable that he should be sent packing this week. A talented player who has turned up to take the money and is quite happy to embarrass himself through his own indolence.
We have had other managers who have started brightly and then been found wanting. There are few who can come close to the complete meltdown at all levels under Bruce. It is incompetence and witlessness of the first order. He has complained about injuries and their recurrence, yet it at his insistence that players have been brought back when clearly unfit. It is a disservice to the club, and a risk to the long term well being of several players. It goes beyond poor management.
Despite spending unprecedented sums on building his squad, we only own half the team that is losing every week. He now says that we need eight players for next season!
Quite how much money has been wasted on the likes of Da Silva, Riveros and Angeleri we may never know. I look at Stoke’s position in the table and wonder why it is that a side that regularly contains Whithead, Sorensen, Delap, Jones,Collins and Higginbotham is outperforming the team that has been “improved” under the stewardship of Bruce and Black.
Bruce’s “management” is a catalogue of poor judgement, incompetence and gross stupidity. I rather doubt whether a man responsible for a run like we’ve had would still be in a job at any other club. A 3-0 defeat to Fulham; a side that travels about as well as Newcastle Exhibition is the last straw.
Bruce is right of course. We need at least eight players. All we can hope is that he will no longer be responsible for signing them.