When the Bruce Out bandwagon becomes harder to resist

Regulars at Salut! Sunderland know the drill well enough.

We try as best we can to tell it how it is from the moment one match finishes until it seems right to suspend hostilities/stop gloating (usually the former, alas) and get behind the team for the next one. We try not to be, in the never-to-be forgotten words of one reader, a cauldron of negativity.

It is just as well Steve Bruce would probably never dream of reading a supporters’ site. But the other day he was complaining, again, about the pressure from fans and North-eastern media.

If he did read Salut! Sunderland, he would know he has been offered kindness, patience and understanding to an extent frankly unmerited by what he has achieved given all the money and time at his disposal. Plenty of level-headed readers think we’ve been utterly bonkers in our reluctance to jump on the Bruce Out bandwagon at the various signs that far from all being well, much is very unwell indeed.

For better or, as things look just now, for worse, I am stuck with the position I argued here two weeks ago.

A defeat at the Emirates, though enough taking account of previous offences to do for Peter Reid nine years ago, is not the test of Bruce’s managership I would apply. I remain committed to reaching my own conclusions after the three November games. That does not mean I think Ellis Short should be idle between now and then; I have also said that if a candidate, a really strong candidate, happened to be available at any time before then, Bruce should go for the greater good of Sunderland AFC. It is just that I fear rocking the boat without a rescuer in sight would make sinking inevitable.

However, Short must beyond question have a Plan B should it become clear after those next five games (and probably after the first two of them) that we going nowhere except the Championship.

Others, Pete Sixsmith included though he has been patient too, take a far more hard-headed view. Pete felt the starting line-up at Arsenal, with Sessegnon – not a recognised striker – alone up front, was right, but he felt so only because we have no options if Bendtner, merely on loan, is unavailable.

I share the disbelief of many supporters that this is the case and am not remotely convinced by Bruce’s defence on Radio Newcastle: that he “thought Sessegnon would cause them problems” and that for different reasons (Korean international exploits, raw youth), Ji and Wickham could not start. We have continually asked why Sunderland AFC should find itself so bereft of attacking strength, considering what we have let slip through our hands, and there has been no acceptable answer.

If Bruce’s remaining supporters or even waverers think that is harsh, they should consider the tone of most of the comments that appear here, never forgetting that Salut! Sunderland tends to attract rather more mature, sensible and even-handed readers than many forums. Confidence is ebbing away with each dismal result.

Mike Allcock, Ols to those who know him, posts here infrequently but has previously given consent for his views, as expressed at the Blackcat e-mail list, to be reproduced.

And this, brilliantly put but not for the squeamish, was his response to a fellow-subscriber’s question about the substitution of Larsson:

He took him off because he’d done his job. The whole of the second half was simply an attempt to waste as much time as possible in order to eke out a draw. As I (and several others) have mentioned before, some of us for well over a year now, what is really galling is the look of shock on Bruce’s face when the inevitable happens and the winner/equaliser goes in.

The whole thing makes absolutely no sense at all. Pygmy tribes in Papua New Guinea who haven’t had any contact with the rest of the world since 1752, drooling chavs somnolent from Temazepam shacked up in the YMCA opposite Mowbray Park, Republican senators, and Paul Daniels could predict what is likely to happen but it’s still a surprise to Bruce. And all of the former (well, OK, other than Paul Daniels) can predict when he’s going to bring Ji and Wickham on too.

If Ji and Wickham aren’t considered good enough to start against the poorest Arsenal side in the last 30 years, then they really shouldn’t be in the squad at all. And if they are then he needs to start one or both (if Bentdner is unavailable) of them. Taking off the two players who did make a difference (as he almost always has done) really just illustrates what a poor judge of the game he is.

I can’t knock him completely; if he hadn’t have signed Larsson and David Vaughan then we’d have no points at all this season and would be, in effect, relegated already. He’s beginning, seemingly, to get the message about Cattermole too. But the whole situation is simply incompetence papered over by Short’s money; he has taken what did work (wins or draws secured by last minute goals from Bent or Gyan last year), thrown it away due to a deluded belief that the difference was the manager (and not a bit of fortune and a couple of reasonably sharp forwards) and is now puzzled that it’s not working out. Oh and to boot he waits until we get our second home win of the year and has a go about the fans and the media being delusional.

Et tu, Brucie.

We are not anywhere near the depths of the McCarthy era – Mick, not Senator Joe – when one disgruntled SAFC supporter used win-lose-draw initials at a newspaper website to summarise his record as a Premier League manager of Sunderland:


But leave aside our disgraceful cup surrenders, and also – in fairness – a very good January in the league (three wins and a draw), and you get this:


In other words, just four wins since Feb 1. It is hardly disloyal to suggest that, in win-draw-lose language or any other, that is relegation form.

I cannot put it more bluntly than this: even my end-of-November deadline does not obscure the fact that Steve Bruce probably has no more than Bolton away and Villa at home to show that he can get his team to perform and win points. And for the record, I still want that to happen.

Monsieur Salut

19 thoughts on “When the Bruce Out bandwagon becomes harder to resist”

  1. Some interesting posts for both sides of the argument, however the basis on the arguement for Bruce to remain as manager is mainly to be given more time. Time is fast running out and you have to look at the overall performance over the last 2 seasons. The situation at left back is bewildering, we sell off our player of the year (twice) and the following 3 seasons we dont replace him. Richardson will never make a left back, We have Mccarthy, not ideal, but he is our only left back and now on loan, as well as our only established striker that is owned by our club. Now am I the only one who is not shocked at the lamentable position we find ourselves in. lets look again at the summer signings, Larrson, Gardener and Vaughan, all signed from relegated clubs and players who played a significant part for there respected clubs, an unknown korean who can’t speak a word of the lingo, Two players from the championship untried at this level and two players unable to command a starting place for there teams everything stinks of the Champoinship and wer heading there fast. Bruce spends 8 million on potential when the team is desperate for a proven striker, if the club is relegated Ellis could see 8 million straight down the drain.
    Bruce talks about the most balanced squad he has had in years, Am I missing something here or this year alone he has bought 3 wide right players whom he tries to fit in else where within the team and no one for the left wing. hardly balanced.
    cattermole, Bruce leaves this guy as captain and our main central midfielder, why!, look at the defeats to The Mags and Chealsea ifI am right clattermole gave away soft needless free kicks outside the box which resulted in goals in both games and defeat. He has no creativity and his shooting would be more suited for rugby that football yet Bruce persists with him.
    It troubles me to say this but an unbalanced side, a thug as captain, players playing out of position, this is all down to Bruce and only Bruce. He needs to go and go now before he does untold damage to our beloved football club.
    If wer going to go down lets go down with spirit, get Blair Adams back and get him at left back, lets unleash Ryan Noble upfront, surely a better potential than Wickham. Give the kids a shot because the recruits from the relegation gravey train are not going to do it for us.

  2. Wouldn’t it be nice if the voters clicking the “thumbs down” took the time to express their views on what is a good and articulate thread.

    If you disagree with the poster, the platform is yours.

  3. davey says:
    October 19, 2011 at 7:48 am


    Excellent Posts”

    My thoughts, exactly mirrored.

    I may not agree with the content but I could never disagree with the thought process or belief.

    Chat Noir – It may not be my place to say it but!

    Welcome to Salut!

  4. If changes need to be made, then changes need to be made. All I hope is that they are handled correctly. Like everyone, I just want what’s best for my club.

    For me consistency is important to success, and I’d just like to see the current manager given a bit more time. Everton, for example, is the patron saint of terrible starts, but they always turn it around. I’d just like to see, for the sakes of constancy and stability, if we can start to progress with the present squad and the present manager.

    A stroll through our recent history (the post-Reid era) is one characterised by relegation, a revolving door of managers, and general unrest in the terraces as well as the boardroom. Truly those were trying times for Sunderland supporters; sometimes I think our memories are too short.

    Bruce is our seventh manager (including the caretaker spells of Bally and Sbragia) since 2002. That’s quite a lot of personnel changes in such a short amount of time.

    We ended the 09/10 season with 44 points. We ended the 10/11 season with 47 points (perhaps a marginal improvement, but an improvement nonetheless). There was a massive dip in form post-January last season, which saw us slide way down, but we were never really in danger of relegation under Bruce.

    The going is tough, but we have had worse times at Sunderland.

  5. There’s nothing partisan about being part of the “Bruce out Brigade.” It’s only common sense. The only thing Bruce deserves from the fans now is complete intolerance. He’s a disgrace. I’m disgusted with him, the garbage he has signed, his persistence with the worst forms of garbage that he’s signed in Elmo and Cattermole, and increasingly in the unwillingness of the club to rid us of this pestilence.

    I’ve barely even got the heart to post comments about this blithering idiot.

  6. Chat noir – good points well made but in these days of hyper inflated fees and meaningless contracts, players who can command a transfer fee, however small (relatively) – compared to their salaries and potential inclusion in the squad – will be offloaded because it’s “good business.” Nowadays the running of a club has less to do with winning trophies and more with profit and loss.

    O’Shea and Brown are not bargains – they were allowed to leave because it suited Man Ure and the Glazers to let them go. Similarly, Ferdinand (whilst not my favourite player) had a role at Sunderland but was allowed to leave because in a year’s time his contract would run out and he’d have gone for nothing. The club have saved his salary (1-2 million) and got some dosh for him.

    Bruce’s job (and I’m repeating myself ad nauseum so apologies) is to use the resources at his disposal to get the best results possible. He is not achieving this objective. If we have 28 points on December 27th then I’ll be happy(ish) and be prepared to wait until a manager with flair and imagination becomes available but the longer he stays the more he reminds me of Howard Wilkinson.

    I’ll be there for Villa but another poor perfomance and I’ll have to ask myself if I can’t get more pleasure spending my cash on other things.

  7. Bruce now refers to SAFC fans as ‘them’ and is proving a poor, inarticulate manager. Check out the blog ‘Steve Bruce blames’ [just google it]. Says everything really. Never ever his fault is it? I’m bored with and sick of this season already.

  8. Well put at the end there Bill, and, tying in nicely with the article, I do feel salut and a lot of our fans in general having been far too kind and very patient with mr Bruce. I wonder how he’d feel if he went to Liverpool instead of roy Hodgson and they decided in less than the 2 weeks they afforded him that he wasn’t up to it? And all he does is slag us off!

  9. Phil,

    First, thanks for being polite! I’m sick to the back teeth of just reading abuse.

    1. I guess the point was that Larsson has been our best performer this season, and if it hadn’t been for Bruce it’s likely he would not have signed for us. I’m only speculating, but let’s face it, we’re neither a fashionable club nor a fashionable city. And a player of his calibre probably had (cosmetically) better offers.

    2. By ‘cut-price’ I did not mean to suggest any impropriety. According to SkySports (here’s your grain of salt) we got JOS for £5m and Wes Brown for £1m; that seems very low for players of their reputation. Elmo cost twice what Brown did; Catts cost more than the pair of them– seems a bit off to me. I know Brown lost his spot at MUFC to Ferdinand, Vidic and even the young ones like Jones and Smalling, but he’s still absolute class. £1m seems terribly inexpensive, and whilst I’m sure every dealing between the club has been above board, perhaps we were given a bargain.

    3. You’re right to say that without a view to a permanent deal, bringing in a loan player will only benefit them in the end (unless the player in question turns out to be a total waste of space LOL). But sometimes you need a player now, to plaster over the wound.

    4. This is the million dollar question I suppose. I (and doubtless others as well) thought that we saw our best XI at the Stoke match. They were fluid, communicative, strong, and clinical in their finishing. But then they went to Norwich, and were none of those things. Perhaps he ought to know our best XI by now, but if there were more consistency from the lads, his job would much easier. I also maintain that he absences (if you will) of Gyan and Titus (and to a lesser extent Anton) were something we that caught the club off guard. I’m sure that plans made early in the season centred on Gyan as our main goalscorer and suddenly we had to make changes and bring in a new player in Bendtner, who, thankfully, has fitted in incredibly well. Hopefully when Bardo gets back, we’ll see a bit more consistency in terms of the XI, and that will breed consistency in the performances. Although someone pointed out to me on Twitter that Larsson got his fifth yellow of the season on Sunday (four in the league, one in the Carling Cup), he too may be unavailable. That’ll be a big, big miss if he is indeed suspended…

    5. I didn’t say I’d *only* be worried in April; it’s just that I’m not worried in October. For me it’s just too early to panic.

    6. Well of course there have been more than five lovely moments this season; for the sake of being concise I just listed the ones that were the most prominent. But if you like, here are a few more:

    -The cross that Elmo put in for Larsson’s volley at Liverpool.

    -Larsson’s volley at Liverpool.

    -Wes Brown’s entire performance at Liverpool.

    -Sess bobbing and weaving his way through the Newcastle defence (shame about the finishing though). He looked so fantastic in the first half of that match; still boggles the mind that we came away with nothing that day.

    -Mig’s performance against Stoke. Not that they spent a great deal of time in our area, but when he needed to be, he was commanding. Something another one of our keepers simply was not, in our last match against Stoke.

    -Ji’s goal against Chelsea. First because it wiped the smug, twatty look off the smug, twatty face of John Terry. But mostly because he really showed excellent composure and skill at that moment. Ji is a young player, new to this country and the fact that he didn’t panic when Terry and Cech came to close him down is hugely impressive.

    -Richo’s goal at Norwich. It was a difficult shot taken beautifully, but more importantly it showed we had a bit of spirit. As with Chelsea, our fightback came too late, but it was heartening to see that we’d hadn’t entirely given up.

    -All of Bendtner’s performances this season. He’s been an abosolute godsend, and frankly (without wishing to be cruel), miles better than what we had seen of Gyan in the opening performances.

    It has been a difficult time to be a Sunderland supporter, and for a variety of reasons. So many of our performances have been characterised by a fight back– always nice to see our lads with a bit of bottle, but it can be immensely frustrating. In many ways it feels as if we’re stuttering; that we’re yet to make our ‘real’ start. Stoke aside, in this early part of the season we’ve seen so many start-stop-start-stop performances.

    And it feels a bit wrong to blame the manager for everything. Of course he’s made some mistakes, but so have the lads.

    I look at the players we’ve assembled and think that they should be playing better than this. Because so many of the errors made haven’t been tactical, they’ve been silly: failing to look up before passing or hoofing when they didn’t need to hoof.

    But I look at some of the performances over which Bruce has presided in his time here, and it’s clear that he can inspire a team to victory. And I look at the players we’ve assembled and they’re just brilliant, most of them with years and years of Premier League experience.

    Sunderland usually have a difficult time in the winter or early spring; I like to think we’re going through it early, and that purple patches lie ahead.

    I don’t know why we haven’t managed to be consistent yet, but with time, I know we can find form and can move forward.

  10. “Short must beyond question have a Plan B should it become clear after those next five games (and probably after the first two of them)…”
    Short must surely have a Plan B right now — another 5 games under the current manager could leave Sunderland in inextricably dire straits. I’ve seldom seen a less self-aware man, a man with less conception of cause and effect. Bruce genuinely seems to believe that if he continues along his merry way, that things will somehow turn around for the team.
    He told BBC Newcastle he didn’t include a striker in his lineup against Arsenal because “I thought Sessegnon would cause them problems.”
    What made him think that? Why, when it immediately became clear that Sessegnon was NOT causing Arsenal problems, did he not rethink his strategy? It’s because he’s not capable of thinking that fast. He’s a plodder, a man of neither vision nor imagination. A man whose philosophy is, “Let’s try not to lose.” A man who regards a point a game as an acceptable return. A man who spends good money on good players and then finds excuses not to use them.
    A man who should not be given another five games to prove himself. If Short doesn’t have a replacement in mind, then Bruce should be cut loose anyway. Because NO manager would be better than THIS manager. Let the coaching staff take over in the interim. They couldn’t possibly do any worse and, with the the jolt of adrenalin it would give them, might well do a good deal better until a new manager could be found.
    “We have to weather the storm,” Bruce told BBC Newcastle.
    “I know I’ve got a decent squad, an honest group of players, and if we stick with it then it will be OK.”
    It’s been a bloody long storm. A “decent” squad? It’s better than that but if it sticks with Bruce’s formula, it’ll be anything but OK. The man’s a loser and that’s contagious. He needs to be quarantined well away from the SoL.

  11. Michael Owen and Rooney amongst others played for England at 17 but Wickham is so unfinished at 18 not to be able to come on except for the last few minutes. And Ji who played in the World Cup and many other internationals is also just a last minute man. If either of these is happy with this state of affairs I’ll be surprised.
    For heavens sake give these two and Bentner a start with three up front. Sessegnon and Larsson as suppliers. We can only lose and that has been known to happen before.

  12. No matter how you argue the point, we are heading towards another low (Relegation). Pro or Against Bruce, change is required and needs to happen now.
    The only viable option is the Manager. We cannot get rid of the Owner, the Team or the Backroom staff. ‘Bruce is the only option’.
    You can argue his Tactics, Managerial skills, Training regime or anything else. The truth of the matter is he has to be the sacrificial lamb. No matter how you see him, the logical conclusion has to be the ‘Manager Goes’.
    Surly we all see that no matter what side of the fence you stand on

  13. chatnoir_safc.

    I very much enjoyed reading the “other side of the argument” BUT I think that your reasoning and logic is flawed, for the reasons below:

    1) The fact that a player enjoyed working with a particular manager and is/was willing to do so again say’s, absolutely, nothing about the manager’s tactical ability or, general, intelligence but, maybe, say’s more about that of the player and his ambitions.

    2) I cannot believe that the fees agreed with Man Utd were “cut price deals” – They are far too professional to allow that to happen.

    3) Bringing in loan players (from the top clubs) without an agreement in place for a permanent transfer can (IMHO) only assist the “parent” club in the long term – NEVER the borrowing one.

    4) Of course it takes time for new players to “gel” BUT how many? So far, they have had (including preseason) around 15/16 games! Bruce, though, still does not know his best team/formation! How much longer does he need?

    5) The fact that we are “teetering just above the relegation places” in October may not concern you, but it DOES concern me! Your suggestion that you would only become concerned in April I found amazing!

    6) Bruce’s football philosophy would, seemingly, not allow for “some fantastic moments this season”. The fact that you can list 5 (some, increadibly, woolily) after 8 games, somewhat, defeats your point!

    He has to go and go NOW!

  14. CSB: no offence intended by the use of the word. Those opposed to the Bruce managership include people like you who have argued intelligently and consistently that he is not up to the job.

    There are also the people who hate him because he is “fat”, or “a Mag”, or because it has become fashionable to do so. But my understanding of the word bandwagon allows me to believe that those who have joined for dubious reasons find a number of places already occupied by supporters who got there before them with rational argument.

    I think everything I’ve written about Bruce recently has an element of owning up to egg on face. Even though I stand by everything I have said, and would respond differently to you (re Bruce) if we were to win both forthcoming games, I do realise I have probably been too patient and am still failing to face up to facts. That is a measure of how much my own qualified support has been affected.

  15. ‘Bruce Out Bandwagon’ is rather a demeaning phrase to use for the folk (many appearing often on this very web site) who have been saying for 12 months that ‘something is rotten in the state of Sunderland’, particularly as all the evidence would support our very early concern.

    As I have mentioned in an earlier blog I am not on a ‘Bruce Out Bandwagon’ but I am on a ‘Pro Sunderland’ one. If for the good of the Club Bruce must go then so be it. If we are the ‘Bruce Out Bandwagon’ then what, taking results etc. and all other evidence into account does that make the still audible ‘give him time’ lot. Head in the sand comparisons spring to mind, these are the ones who would risk the Club for him despite all reason.

    I seriously doubt even the Pro Bruce Brigade actually believe he is the man for the job, rather its going to be too much ‘egg on face’ for them to actually admit they were wrong and that some of us spotted the deficencies all that time ago. I would have loved for Bruce to succeed, but he hasn’t, he not going too and he never will.

  16. I’ve recently been called an idiot for my troubles, but I’m still an in-er, I’m afraid.

    I doubt Seb Larsson would have come to Sunderland but for Bruce. In the aftermath of Bent and Gyan leaving, many supporters were quick to assume that his man-management skills were lacking. But players like Larsson and Bendtner must have had offers from other more prominent clubs, and they came here. Cattermole and Titus came here to work with Bruce, knowing full well that their previous at Boro and Newcastle, respectively, would not be forgotten. For all the criticisms thrown at him, for me, being an ineffective man-manager is not valid. Like any manager he does sometimes get transfers wrong, but largely the players he’s brought in have been very good. Where would we be now sans Seb?

    Like Keano before him, having an ex-MUFC man in charge behooves us greatly. We have been able to get young players on loan (Welbeck, Evans) and we’ve gotten cut-price deals on sales (in particular Brown and JOS). Okay, so it’s not a great reason to keep someone around, but Sir Alex’s habit of almost exclusively loaning players to either former charges or family members is an advantage. And of course building a strong, successful team is not going to happen if we *rely* on loans, but until we find the elusive Bent mark II, taking another young striker on loan is a financially sound method of filling the gaps.

    There have been major personnel changes during the summer transfer window. It takes time for a squad to learn to play together. I don’t know how it ought to take, but surely it’s longer than eight matches (although I do wish I did know: seems like there’s a potential for profit with that information). And it’s not just that we’ve brought in new players over the summer, it’s that we’ve had huge changes since the season began. I know Bruce and Anton’s relationship was at best tenuous, but I was surprised to see him go considering he started the first three matches of the season. Now Titus, who replaced Anton, is no longer available for selection. It’s been ages since Turner played in the Premier League, and hopefully he’ll find some good form. (I know he hasn’t got many fans, but I will say he does some incredible defending in under-pressure situations. When he has time to think that, for me, is where he makes his mistakes). Also Gyan’s departure was a bit of a shock, but we were very lucky to get Bendtner in as a replacement. The central midfield, in a bid to find our best partnership, has been chopped and changed more than any other area. It’s up the players now (Catts, Colback, Gardner, Vaughan) to put in consistent performances and force their selection.

    Every team experiences ups and downs in a season. Hell, teams even experience ups and downs mid-match (think of the old ‘match of two halves’ cliché). There have been some fantastic moments this season, glimpses of quality when we’ve been afforded a view of what these lads are capable of producing. The second half of Liverpool; the first half of Newcastle; the moment Titus (of all people) skipped past Torres in the Chelsea match; the Stoke match. There have been a number of low moments as well, which I’m sure I don’t need to enumerate– I imagine they’re fairly well burned into our consciousness! But we haven’t really made the start that the summer buys indicated we would. That’s not a good thing, but it’s not the end of the world. If this were April and we were teetering just above the relegation places, I might be concerned. But it’s October, and we’re only eight matches into the season. I know supporters are eager to mention our record this calendar year, but for me it’s difficult to compare the club across the seasons because of the personnel changes. But I’ll go out on a limb and say things will get better. We brought in a number of young players who need time to mature. Football supporters are hugely impatient as a group, but every player started out young and inexperienced at some point. There was furore when Hendo broke into the squad because he was young; there was furore when Colback was brought in because he was young, and they’ve been good performers for us (and Liverpool). Wickham and Ji were bought for the future, and from what I’ve seen, I’m impressed by Ji (not many players score against Chelsea). Wickham, I’m sure will come good as well. He just needs time. I know it feels like a black hole now, but in my time supporting Sunderland, I’ve seen worse times than this. This hasn’t got the hollow feeling of immient relegation that we experienced at the end of the McCarthy era, or even the madness that followed Keane leaving. We’re in a valley at the moment, but I fully believe that we’ll find our best form and ascend soon. Although sometimes I do wonder if much of the supporter anguish is exaggerated by the successes of our neighbours.

    I’m not saying Bruce is perfect, or that he hasn’t made mistakes. In fact I’m often hugely frustrated at how long he waits to make vital changes. And, whilst I was willing to give it a chance, parking the bus just didn’t work at Arsenal. We gave them too much respect and were punished for it.

    But I honestly believe that if Bruce and his coaches encourage attacking football, and the lads themselves cut out their indivdual mistakes, we will do well this season.

  17. Being a Sunderland supporter I will always wish us to win games and be successful.

    I cannot help but feel, however, were this to happen for the next two, three, four games it would, merely, be papering over the cracks and before long we would be back discussing Bruce’s future.

    Nothing will change my view on that so, for the long term benefit of the club, I would pass on the wins and then expect some positive action from Short, to enable us to, genuinely, move forward!

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