The Robson Report: Bruce makes Leeds and 1973 seem centuries ago


Steve Bruce looked a broken man on Match of the Day. Some of the abuse lobbed at him, Salut! Sunderland believes, was unacceptable, but it had hit home. To a large degree, of course, he is the author of his present misfortune. Jeremy Robson, hardly a born again convert to the Bruce Out cause, discusses this latest calamitous era of Sunderland’s managerial history …

For followers of this fine club of ours there has been a sorry history of underachievement apart from the two seventh placed finishes under Peter Reid and the solitary FA Cup win in 1973. I watched it again last night and for the very first time experienced the realisation that this was a long time ago.

Over the period since the now legendary Bob Stokoe delivered the only meaningful silverware in a lifetime we have seen a steady stream of managers who have all achieved various levels of mediocrity if not outright failure.

Those seventh places hardly equate to success. Mention such lofty finishing positions to followers of Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool and they will either laugh uncontrollably or grimace internally at our ludicrous sense of satisfaction and perception of what achievement really means.

There is but one inescapable observation that can be made when conducting any analysis of the records and circumstances in which Sunderland AFC will change their managers. Inevitably, the failings of any manager have tolerated for far longer than they have any right to be tolerated.

Since Alan Durban’s sacking in the early 80s, this has been the case.

His departure is a suitable starting point because over the course of the last 40 years he is the only manager who has been dismissed unfairly and prematurely. If I recall correctly, the only managers who have left without being sacked in the subsequent years are Roy Keane and Ricky Sbragia. Keane was probably feeling the pressure when Ellis Short assumed control of the club, and Sbragia was a desperate short term measure and should never have been considered for the job in the first place. The trend has continued sadly with the current incumbent (at least current while writing this piece).

Steve Bruce’s record is not poor. It’s not a bad record. It is quite frankly deplorable. It has been deplorable in terms of results and performances on the pitch during the majority of 2011, and deplorable for his use of resources for a whole lot longer.

As happened with so many of his predecessors, it has been tolerated. But unlike the majority of his predecessors, Bruce has been all too ready to look for excuses and to pass the blame to any convenient scapegoat. In recent times that role has been fulfilled by the fans, who have remained loyal in their support despite woeful and inept displays endured for months on end.

Bruce claims that the fans’ expectations are too high, yet he presides over at team that has played 15 home games since the turn of the year, and have won twice. I really wonder what this increasingly beleaguered manager considers to be a reasonable expectation given that the latest defeat was at the hands of the PL’s basement club, which doubled its goals for tally for the season in 90 minutes at the Stadium of Light.

The fans with the overblown expectations have been incredibly patient with his dire and consistent failure, poor football, tactical naivete, and inability to manage and hold on to star players. Today it changed and the fans got on his back. Their frustration boiled over, resulting in personal attacks on Bruce himself. It’s not pleasant to hear, but
if there’s anything surprising about this it’s the fact that it didn’t begin some time ago. It’s indicative of a support with low expectations if anything. Tolerate it and keep on turning up.

Bruce insists that he won’t quit, despite the fact that the fans have turned on him. According to Sky Sport, his response was as follows:

“It borders on abuse. When it gets like it is, it’s disappointing to hear, but I’m a resilient so-and-so and I’ve taken stick all my life and come through it and I’m determined to see it through.”

We know you won’t quit, Steve, and we know exactly why. Despite the fact that you are a country mile short of what’s needed to do this job, you simply have no shame. Not to mention that quitting might cost you a packet. You clearly have no sense of self respect and none for the fans who pay your wages. But why would you deserve or expect any in return?

* Amid much gallows humour on the eve of the Wigan game, Jeremy and M Salut compared notes on what Steve Bruce would say after the final whistle. I offered: “I can’t fault the lads. They gave their all and so nearly getting a clean sheet was a positive. Sadly, Wigan did keep one but they’ve been in the Premier for a long, long time – 20 minutes at the very least – and it shows. We’ve just got to keep plugging away and results will come, starting soon.”

Jeremy responded with: “There are no easy games in the Premier League let me tell you, and they don’t come any tougher than Wigan at home. Everybody thinks that the toughest fixtures are at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. Wigan came here fighting for their lives and they will always make it hard.

“Their record away speaks for itself. They scored twice away from home this season, and that record isn’t too dissimilar to ours despite what some of our supporters think. They came here today probably expecting us to get a 0-0 or even a score draw, but they need to realise that you can’t stop the opposition scoring every week. I know that means that we have to score to maybe get the draw if we go a goal down, but they need to be more realistic. It’s no good coming down here every week expecting us to score goals; That’s just not going to happen. If they are expecting goals every game, then I’m disappointed.

I thought we missed Elmo today as he gives us something different down the right hand side. Don Hutchison is his prime would have been a real asset in the middle of the park, and maybe a 23 year old Kevin Phillips would have made the difference. But I can’t fault the lads for effort and the gap between ourselves has narrowed because we’ve lost a game that we could and should have drawn. With 89 minutes left, I said to Eric that I thought ‘we are going to get the draw here’.

But then they scored unfortunately after a quarter of an hour and there was no way back from there. It was hard on the lads after we had dominated the game for 40-50 seconds. We’ll be back on the training ground on Monday working hard to put things right. As I said before, I’m disappointed, but that’s football.”

OK, 2-1, not 1-0, so we did score and we didn’t “so nearly” keep a clean sheet. But neither of us, sadly, was too far off the mark.


46 thoughts on “The Robson Report: Bruce makes Leeds and 1973 seem centuries ago”

  1. His brain is just a medley of pulses, root vegetables and beans Mr Taylor.

    His quote from Benno was both mischievous and out of context, given the rest of what he had to say about Bruce.

  2. My mother in law would certainly put the frighteners on the team Bill. She’d frighten a ghost that woman. As big as Bruce and twice as mean. I doubt even she would scare any sense into this lad Davey who seems to enjoy being on his own. The lad’s lost his grip on reality.

  3. MINORITY? It’s about 80% of the fans who want SB out. You’re the minority, Davey. With, admittedly, a loud voice but nothing of any substance to say.

    I was quoting Gary Bennett – who obviously knows nothing

  4. No I hate the Mags – unfortunately work with a cpl of die hard mags
    who have been croaking on about their magnificent team this season – they have actually been incredibly lucky in a lot of their games but thats beside the point

    However as Gary Bennett has just announced there is no way back for Bruce now “the minority always have the loudest voices”

    Being the last one left on here , willing to take a different perspective on things , as well as heaps of undeserved abuse – pml – cabbage indeed , that’s from BB a guy who doesn’t comprehend any sentence unless it contains the words Bruce out ! We shall see what happens anyway

  5. If my mother in law was picking the team I dare say we’d have won more games at home this year. You really are talking a complete load of bollo Davey. Are you a Mag by any chance?

  6. Personal slights apart – perhaps at this moment a change of manager would kick start the team . What if it doesn’t – the new manager would only have the January transfer window to change the personnel , and then I doubt whether he would receive a large transfer kitty , then I think we really could be doomed

    The only guy I would willingly accept at the moment would be Mark Hughes , Martin O Neil is no better than what we have

  7. Davey’s full of manure (good for his cabbages). Mackems right now have a lot to whinge about. That doesn’t mean we don’t stick by the club through thick and thin (which is more than what he seems to be doing). The Mags don’t have much to whinge about right now but by god they can do it with the best. You just have to read the Evening Chronicle’s Blog on the Tyne to see how they carry on when times are hard. And we all know how loyally they’ve stood behind Mike Ashley!

  8. “Does this mean Davey is turning in his Mackem credentials and switching his allegiance to the Mags?”

    Well he sounds like one. He’ll be waiting till his hero Bruce gets the chop.

    You do still think that Bruce if the best man for the job Davey don’t you?

  9. “There’s more than just a row of cabbages in your allotment.”

    LOL! That’s a trifle harsh on the vegetation there Birflatt old lad.

  10. “I think this probably bears out with the difference in attitudes between Mackems and Mags, it doesn’t seem to matter to the Mags how badly they’re doing they stick by their club through thick and thin. Mackems always seem to moan and groan and whinge… It makes me sick to my stomach to hear the comments passed by these so called “fans”. With fans like those SAFC would do better with an empty stadium. Idiots the lot of ‘em.
    I’ll miss SAFC but I won’t miss the Pessimistic whingers who follow them.”
    Does this mean Davey is turning in his Mackem credentials and switching his allegiance to the Mags?

  11. here have you been Davey? We’ve missed your drivel these last few days on here.
    I can see why you wouldn’t understand Jeremy’s reference to the green and yellow scarves worn by Man Utd fans. If you can’t see past your nose end then I won’t be the one to enlighten you.

    Why wouldn’t I understand the comment about the scarves – what relevance has it to us – what difference has it made to the kit sales of MUFC – not one iota

    I’m just saying of the owner pulls out – you might not have a club to defend !!!!!!!

  12. Join the revolution BB – at all costs – sack the owner – join the public employees day of protest -all of these will do you no good whatsoever – except possibly in your own inflated mindset – and will in fact damage the one thing you supposedly hold in high esteem

    I do have an allotment actually BB – it keeps you fit , after a day sitting behind a desk – back breaking work but well worth the effort
    Whippets aren’t really my thing , though I have bred boxers in the past

  13. Where have you been Davey? We’ve missed your drivel these last few days on here.

    I can see why you wouldn’t understand Jeremy’s reference to the green and yellow scarves worn by Man Utd fans. If you can’t see past your nose end then I won’t be the one to enlighten you.

    Bruce will go. He won’t quit because he’ll be out of pocket big time if he gives in his notice. The owner has to send him packing otherwise the banners and the chants will be bigger and louder. The fans are defending their club. Bruce is killing SAFC.

  14. This has got nothing whatsoever to do with sticking with your team. Your argument as usual is without substance. You forget the “boycouutt” banners and the protests against Ashley etc. The owner of the club is merely a “custodian” and the manager is his employee. You don’t seem to able to separate the two.

    Davey; why don’t you get yourself a whippet or an allotment where you can spend your time pottering about instead of coming on here to annoy people?

    If Bruce doesn’t get the bullet, it is inevitable that the fans frustration will turn on the owner. If Mr Short doesn’t make the decision that everybody wants (and even you Positivo loyalists must have seen the light by now), then the fury of the masses will focus on the one person who refuses to make it. Ellis Short may be the owner but he will be on the receiving end of grass roots democracy.

    Do you think that more of the same from Bruce and his team is going to quieten the voices of discontent? The toothpaste is well and truly out of this tube. Its the Signal brand too with the red and white stripes.

  15. What on earth has “yellow and green scarves got to do with us .
    I have trawled a few sites trying to find a one with a more balanced perspective on the situation – I came across this comment on ALS – which I agree with to a large extent :

    Today’s date is 28 November 2011, fifty years on. In that time we have won an FA cup and nowt else.

    I don’t mind this so much because I’ve always loved the club and winning all the time isn’t possible because we’re not all Man Uniteds, there are only so many trophies and so the great majority of clubs have to accept that and get on with it. For some reason our fans think we have a God given right to win things when history most definitely tells us something much more different!

    A glimpse of something every now and then gives us also-rans a reason to keep going and to win something is wonderful, but (see above)

    I will now follow SAFC on a basis of vague interest, and not because of Steven Bruce or our present situation which has been a lot, lot worse in the past but because of…

    SAFC “Supporters”

    What the hell do they want?

    I was born in the County of Durham but near to the River Tyne, before it became the abominable “Tyne & Wear!” The difference between the attitude of people there and in Sunderland always stood out to me, even as a boy. Sunderland people always seemed so much more pessimistic whereas people from my “neck of the woods” were always quite optimistic regardless of their situation. I think this probably bears out with the difference in attitudes between Mackems and Mags, it doesn’t seem to matter to the Mags how badly they’re doing they stick by their club through thick and thin. Mackems always seem to moan and groan and whinge. If you don’t believe that, stand in a pub after the match even when we’ve won and hear the miserable buggers, or visit the SMB “Pure Football” forum on a match day and follow the comments on there. It makes me sick to my stomach to hear the comments passed by these so called “fans”. With fans like those SAFC would do better with an empty stadium. Idiots the lot of ’em.

    I’ll miss SAFC but I won’t miss the Pessimistic whingers who follow them.

  16. And we are not doomed with Bruce at the helm Davey? I’m talking about what will happen, based on what I’ve observed and with a wet finger in the air about people’s feelings right now.

    It’s a powder keg of emotion. As someone who is constantly predicting the future (with the accuracy of a Scud missile I might add), why are you so aggrieved that I should be telling you what I think will happen.

    Have you seen all those yellow and green scarves at Old Trafford Davey? Do you know why so many people are wearing them?

  17. Well that’s a great idea – let all the fans turn on Short – the guy who’s injected all the money into the club . So how does he “need to be careful” If he pulls out then the club are well and truly doomed

  18. Two more games will prove nothing. If he wins them both which is unlikely it will prove nothing. I’m growing extremely tired of this Bill and I suspect that I am not alone. Getting something out of a game is inevitable at some point in the season. So far that has come largely as a result of Stoke’s midweek trip to the Ukraine and the worst run of home form in Bolton’s history coinciding with our visit. Even a broken clock gets it right twice a day. If what is being reported is true then Ellis Short has reached the stage where he is desperately looking for reasons not to sack him.

    The fans have turned on Bruce. Carry on any longer with this loser and the fans will turn on Short very soon after. Short needs to realise that the protests on Saturday are the tip of the iceberg, and once the mutiny starts it will not be stopped until the masses get what they want. Short is now walking a tightrope similar to that which Bruce has been treading. He needs to be careful. Sunderland fans are not as rebellious as our neighbours up the road, but walking blithely into an increasingly difficult battle against the drop is not going to win either Bruce or Short any friends.

  19. The Daily Mail (not that that’s a reliable source) is reporting that he has two games to turn things around. If that does happen to be true, it’s a recipe for disaster. So if we win one of those games, does that buy Bruce another game’s leeway? Is he out if we lose two in a row or does it just take two draws? Meanwhile, we limp along painfully close to the relegation zone and nothing gets resolved. When will Short realize this isn’t something that can be turned around by Bruce in a couple of games? He’s let this situation develop over a long time. Our only hope is new blood. Right now, not two games further into a disastrous season.

  20. I agree Ken. He is treating our supporters as if we are idiots. The most annoying thing for me is that all he wants to talk about is himself. His feelings are hurt. If he genuinely wishes to restore any sort of positive relationship with the fan base he had the opportunity to do so. He could have said something like “I carry the can for this. I can understand the fans frustration because the results have been poor. They pay their money and they are entitled to have a pop at me as I’m the manager and the buck stops there. We are working to turn things around but it isn’t quite happening for us at the moment. We were unlucky with an uncharacteristic mistake which cost us a goal.

    That would have gone a long way. I don’t for one moment think that he has the faintest idea how to turn it round, and nor does he care. He must know that his time is up. I’m astonished that he’s still there this morning.

  21. I seem to remember McMenemy harping on how we’d beaten Plymouth 4-2 away as an indicator of how impatient the fans were and we all know how his managership ended up.Birflatt Boy’s example is another one of treating the supporters like idiots.

  22. Apparently Bruce’s statistics are now worse than Terry Butcher’s. That’s how bad it is. Dreadful. He still thinks “we are on the right track.”

    Bruce is almost turning into Howard Wilkinson who used to appear in post match interviews doing impersonations of the Saddam Hussein’s Minister for Foreign Affairs who would appear on our screens in complete denial that there were any bombing raids by allied forces, as the explosions could be seen clearly in the background. Wilko had the mantra “this club will not be relegated” as we lost again and again.

    Bruce out!

  23. There`s a word which is overused and misused in discussions about football managers Ken, which is `stability`Pundits use it all the time. `Stability` is created by a competent manager doing a reasonably good job. It doesn`t mean winning titles, cups and such like although invariably in the precarious world of football that is usually what is required to achieve some element of `stability.`If the team is doing ok and winning a few games then they become `stable.`When Bruce arrived I (like many others) thought that this was a pair of safe hands, the personification of `stability.` Nothing could have been further from the truth, and some 30 months later all we are looking for is someone who can come in an put a firm hand on the tiller following the complete instability of Bruce`s time at the helm. It`s not too much to ask. Bruce has killed any pleasure as you say in watching our team. It`s a gruelling exercise and has been for too long. What sickens me most about the man is that his ego is just so huge. He`s offended at the backlash from supporters. Well tough bloody titty to you Bruce because our fans have had enough of your dreadful approach and your lame excuses. When he does get the sack Ken I hope that the literally challlenged dimwit who creates the Bruce`s Banter gets their cards aswell. The only thing worse than watching his team is the patronising repetitive codswallop that arrives in your mail folder a short while after.

    I appreciate the kind words from contributors to this thread, about the original article. However I must confess that the satirical prose created late on Friday was just so easy to put together. We`ve all read it several times before on Saturday evenings.

    Bruce out!

  24. Excellent Jeremy,it takes some doing to make me smile considering our current predicament.I know Bruce has been likened to Bernard Cribbins and he does indeed keep ‘Digging a Hole’. Some of his excuses have become ludicrous.A huge factor for me is that in my last 15 trips to the SOL (a round trip of 150 miles,and I know many travel a lot further ) we’ve won 2.Enjoyment has become almost non-existent and the whole feeling around the club is unfortunately one that has been oh so familiar in our relegation seasons.I can’t for the life of me see why Bruce needs any more games to prove himself.It really now is a test of the management to see how serious they are about bringing a modicum of success to the club.Let’s hope this week brings some good news.

  25. You might be better off in the desert than having to put up with much more of Mrs Doubtfire CSB. We will surely be under new leadership by the time you emerge from your sandy wilderness and memories of the last 30 months will be banished like a bad dream.

    Gan canny in the desert mate.

  26. A good read Jeremy, sums up the past 10 months in a nut shell and I think you encapsulated our current managers short comings in your satirical game summing up.

    Well I’m off now, if only SB were too. Hopefully when I re-emerge from the desert next time (Christmas) I will be having to catch up on how and when the Brucester was removed

  27. I have to say that I am becoming increasingly worried about whether Ellis Short has got a grip on this situation.

    Most of the lads in the pub last night thought that he would have been gone by 6 o`clock last night, and that Short would have had him clear his desk right there and then. We don`t know for sure how he`ll react but he`s been a successful man in other business endeavours and he must be concerned that this project is going down the toilet. I expect that there was a serious and lenghty conversation with Niall Quinn post match and that some action will be taken soon. I desperately hope so, otherwise everyone had better be ready for much more volatile protests.

  28. Here’s what he’s quoted as saying on BBC Sport.

    “Of course I can understand their [the supporters’] frustrations. It’s happened too many times here and, when you’re not winning matches in front of your faithful, of course I’m going to get the brunt of it.

    “But I’m convinced we’re on the right track and nobody is going to change my mind on that.”

    We are on the right track apparently. Now I don’t for one moment think that he can possibly believe his own hyperbole. How can he? Two wins at home in 15 games, and we are on the right track. The only path we are on with him in charge is fast track to the Championship. This is the sort of rubbish that I’d expect to hear from a bloke who is fully aware that his time is up and all he wants is a golden handshake which he hardly deserves.

  29. Maybe you’ve hit the nail on the head Bill. After an eat all you want Sushi dinner they’ll need a bit exercise. I don’t think they’ve been spending enough time on the track with the karts. Possibly a few more laps through the week would help.

  30. How come he hasn’t gone yet? I was expecting the back pages of the papers to be full of him moaning about how hard done by he’s been.

    Bruce out! (I always feel better for saying that) even if it’s become weary.

  31. Rarely do I read an article that sums up exactly how I feel. I can hear Bruce saying this as I was reading and laughing. Brilliantly funny piece of writing but just so accurate at the same time.

    We are becoming a laughing stock with this fool in charge and his departure is months and months overdue. After the chanting yesterday I hope he doesn’t think we want rid of him because of his weight or origins. We want rid of him because he is dross and has been for ages.

  32. There’s nothing more that needs to be said, brilliant article by Jeremy. I found myself nodding and laughing along; I agree Beth too, we’ve been remarkably patient with Bruce and at other clubs the abuse would have started a long time ago. And he deserves it, no question.

  33. Despite what Bruce the buffoon says, we are a very patient set of fans. I’d love to know what he thinks “reasonable expectations” are exactly. It’s not nice when the fans turn like this but for one this is a case where the manager deserves all he gets.

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