Bruce, bitterness and moving on

A penny for Steve Bruce’s thoughts? Given the probable size of our former manager’s pay-off, and the likelihood that discretion on his part was one of its conditions, a penny would not go very far.

But it is tempting all the same to imagine what must be going through his head as he reflects on his own demise as Sunderland manager and watches the exuberance and renewed hope that have accompanied the earliest days of the Martin O’Neill era.

Someone whose ear is generally close to the ground has heard that Bruce feels bitter and has been sounding off to members of his social circle about Sunderland AFC and some of the players he left behind when the axe fell.

Naturally, Salut! Sunderland has no idea whether this is true. It would hardly be surprising if he did feel bitter; indeed, it would be more surprising if he did not.

Of course he may feel let down by his former employers, having been praised so highly throughout his reign right up to a few weeks before the decision for a change was taken, and by his team. Five-and-a-half years after The Daily Telegraph booted me out, ending a period of employment 12 times longer than Bruce lasted at the SoL, there are people I would still cheerfully boil in oil. Bruce will learn to move on, just as people have done after being ditched in more mundane circumstances from common-or-garden jobs in factories, offices and public services.

Up to now, though, it is inevitable that he will have looked at any Sunderland win and said, or thought: “That was my team!” Players he bought have shone and scored; two of them. McClean and Sessegnon, are attracting rave reviews outside the North East.

He will have looked at the defeats, under MON, at White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge and run a licked thumb down his lapel in memory of the same two games producing four points last season. He will recall that the season ended not only with a decent 10th place in the Premier, just as the owner had required, but an unbeaten record in London (someone will know if and when that was last achieved by Sunderland in the top flight). Some say he was lucky with results elsewhere towards the season’s close; as I keep replying, they wouldn’t have been charitable about his “rotten luck” had all those injuries, and a different combination of results, made it a 13th or 14th finish.

But any tendency on Bruce’s part to dwell on his achievements, and life’s unfairness, would be pointless. The decision to sack him was also inevitable. He was not fired by SAFC for being a Geordie any more than I was dumped by the Telegraph for not being a Tory. Football managers are not employed to look back on past glories (or, in Bruce’s case, respectable survival and progress); they are judged by results and Bruce was damned by the very poor ones his team was producing.

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Yes, he left the makings of a useful Premier outfit. But he showed insufficient ability to deploy his players effectively and motivate them to play with self-belief. No tribal anti-Maggery was to blame for that. Martin O’Neill has transformed the way supporters approach games; we now look forward to them instead of expecting to be either bored rigid or frightened to death. That is not because he has always been fond of our club but a result of the players, whoever brought them to Wearside, going about their jobs with a zest that would lift anyone’s game. Furthermore, he is demonstrably better able to organise the squad and make the right decisions when mid-match changes are required.

Anyone with half a footballing brain knows that Sunderland’s disappointing results between the end of January last year up to Bruce’s departure at the end of November, and the impact they had on team confidence, had a great deal to do with the absence of recognised strikers in the squad.

As I wrote in a piece published here on Christmas Day, a year that had begun so full of hope, a 3-0 win against Blackburn Rovers taking us back up to sixth place, deteriorated in large measure because the three scorers that day – Bent, Welbeck and Gyan – were all gone by August, without adequate replacement.

Bruce later called the decision to let Bent go a calculated gamble, and we might have accepted the business logic of the deal had he – or the club – not piled up the odds against Sunderland’s own interests by failing to bring in another striker. Welbeck’s nasty injury occurred before, not after Bent’s transfer to Villa so reliance on him to fill the gap was misplaced to say the least. And Gyan, for all his gifts, was hardly a prolific scorer capable of emulating what Bent had done so well. Later, Wickham and Ji were highly promising acquisitions but if Bruce does not know you need more than promise in the Premier, he is perhaps not suited to that level.

All of which leaves Martin O’Neill with a glaring need to sign someone, in the current transfer window, from whom goals can reasonably be expected. Bendtner, as has been pointed out by others, is neither as good as he thinks nor as bad as his detractors insist, but he shows little sign of being the answer to our lack of firepower. Finding someone up to the task is a tall order but I hope we will not end up having to make do with what we already have until the summer.

One day, Steve Bruce may feel free enough to tell us what really happened during his managership, in particular with regard to the sale-without-replacement of Bent. Was that forced on him? Was Gyan offloaded to the Arabian desert, again without proper replacement, against the manager’s will? Was he denied a free hand in trying to bring in new attackers just as he was reportedly prevented from addressing left-sided creativity problems by meeting N’Zogbia’s pay demands?

And if he cannot bring himself to tell all to Salut! Sunderland, then maybe he should dress it up as fiction and spill the beans in a sequel to Sweeper!, Defender! and Striker!, his series of novels about Steve Barnes, fictional football boss.

* Image: The View from the Press Box

Monsieur Salut

16 thoughts on “Bruce, bitterness and moving on”

  1. CSB – I wasn’t banging on about finishing tenth . I was merely responding to a previous comment . However as you bring it up again , I still maintain that over a season wherever you finish , is no fluke . Bruce earned a fortune at Sunderland , so I don’t have much sympathy for his plight
    However I am enjoying MON’s reign immensely , long may it continue . The match against Swansea should be a good tester , we need to make the SOL a fortress again , and should be winning games like this . With 3 home games on the trot we can go a long way to establishing a new fortress

  2. The only place he was taking us is the Championship. I don’t really want to say much more about the guy. Its nothing personal nothing to do with him being a geordie its just a fact that he is not a very good manager.

    He has an eye for talent I dont doubt that as he did sign some decent players for us, however he could never get the best out of his players.

    Time to move on Mr Bruce we have!

  3. Davey,

    Nice to see you out of hibernation/ self imposed exile/ shamefaced street etc etc …….. Two points about your posting……

    Bruce is still bleating about his treatment nationally in the press and is therefore fair game for responding comments

    If we had lost 1 – 0 at Chelsea and he was still in charge I would have been singing his praises for the spirited performance that we put on and might have just been persuaded to give him more time.

    Additionally there is very scarey similarity about your banging on about the 10th place and Bruces continuing mentionung of it every opportunity he gets.

    It was a fluke, we would not have approched anywhere near that this season had he been in charge and as such he would have failed in his core goal of season upon season improvement and would have been deserving of the heave ho at season end, where we would have been a championship side…………And I have no doubt that if that had been the case you would still be banging on about our 10th position and that he just needed a little more time………Yawn Yawn Yawn… Get Real

  4. I see the drugs haven’t entirely worn off Davey. You are no longer asleep but alert enough to deliver the “pro-Bruce mantra.”

    We are not still “wittering” on about Bruce at all. There are new and emerging topics to discuss, in which he provides even further evidence (which is not needed) of his own stupidity and blame shifting. We wanted rid of him because he was a bloody of Titanic proportions. As Mr Hutton so justifiably points out, his worst sin of all is not signing bad players (which he did), but in casting aside players who should and could have brought something to the team. Kilgallon is one example. There are others too. Why were the talents of the likes of Da Silva and Riveros as well as Angeleri left to rot? Bruce was and continues to disgrace himself with his latest bitter and bile filled comments. So do you for supporting him. You must be as lonely as Michael Barrymore at a pool party by now.

  5. I can’t believe you lot are stil wittering on about Bruce .
    He’s gone , i thought he could have turned it around but any arguments are futile now , MON has done a brilliant job.
    2 points though – Ifos – your finishing position in the league is after 38 games – wheever you end up , you deserve that position – nothing to do with luck in the last minute of last game of the season
    Also had Bruce’s team been beaten 1 – 0 at Chelsea – the comments would have been very different – remember the 1 – o defeat at Man U ?

  6. As a leader, your team will believe your vision and your opinion… Bruce’s regular opinion was always based around waiting… ‘It’ll come…’, ‘We’ll blend…’, ‘Lot’s of new players…’.
    Surely if you spend your time waiting, you never achieve anything? You have to deliver every hour of ever day… Every minute of every game.
    M.O’N has the right leadership credentials… Focus on what you CAN do, what you WILL do, not the dismal, withering, excuse making, downtrodden, horseshit that Bruce would vomit from his sagging face hole.

  7. Check out the Sunderland Echo web site and newsnow football as Mr Bruce is bleating on about how the Club did not give him enough time and that it was the fans who were instumental in getting him sacked, truly unbeleivable.

    Mr Bruce holding his hands up again an trying to claim its not his fault, no sympathy for this man what with his pay-off when he should have walked and his complete inability to take any responsibility for his actions.

    His comments totally beggar belief

    As Dirty Harry said ‘ a man should know his own limitations’

    Thank god he has gone

  8. Steve Bruce probably has every reason to fell disappointed and can honestly say ” that’s my team doing so well” with justification, but think of Ellis Short who gave Bruce countless millions of his hard earned to spend. Much of those funds were wasted Riverios Da Silva Angeleri and to an extent Kilgallon who under Bruce dwelt in the wilderness, was he getting good return on his investment? The answer is No but with the appointment of MON we now have a freshness and spirit which is taking us forward Bruce can take some comfort from this but should accept that he was the architect of his own downfall and the decisions he made brought a very jittery and unsuccessful final few months of his Sunderland reign. I wish him well and believe Sunderland improved on his watch but the return on investment was inadequate

  9. I don’t know that he has any right whatsoever to feel bitter. He should however feel completely embarrassed if he even attempts to take stock of his own credentials as a football manager.

    A great deal has been made about O’Neill’s ability to lift the players that he inherited from Mrs Doubtfire, and rightly so. Imagaine what he will be able to do with this own players.

  10. If England are performing this badly now Eric we can only hope Bruce doesn’t speak to them directly, they’ll become even worse!

    • Next sighting of Brucie will probably be as a resident “expert pundit” during the Euros. Thankfully this should also be a short lived gig.

  11. Great piece, Colin. I really don’t think Bruce was treated unfairly, nor do I think the issue of his being a Geordie was significant in what happened.

    Louise Taylor made some interesting comments in her article on the Sunderland renaissance in this Saturday’s Guardian-a very good article, although I know she has her detractors. She compared Bruce and O’Neill’s approaches to training and discipline, areas which are critical to this story. Bruce obviously failed to create a appropriately professional set up, something that many of us suspected. The stories about not being able to use a computer etc are part of a failure on his part to engage properly with the modern game. O’Neill is older than Bruce but has a very different attitude on a number of levels, and we can see the results.

    It is over now and we have moved into a new era . I think Bruce got a good exit deal and shouldn’t be too resentful. We will see what happens for him in the future. Like Bryan Robson, to whom I would compare him, I don’t think he will ever make the kind of manager he thinks he is and I don’t see him proving the Sunderland Board wrong for sacking him, at any time soon

  12. In a word, I’d say Steve Bruce is probably “disappointed.”
    One of the major differences between your firing and his, Colin, is that you never let the Telegraph down, let alone make that your default position. You had, and have, every reason to feel like boiling certain people in oil. SB should be in the pot on his own.

  13. Great useless sod seems to spending a miniscule portion of his payoff by watching cricket in Dubai. He’s just been interviewed on SSN. England are under performing and way off the pace – he should be used to that.

  14. We achieved 10th place because of a last minute goal in a game between Newcastle and WBA, a goal and a match over which Bruce had no control. To gain from something which is chance and over which you have no control is the very definition of luck, therefore Bruce was indeed lucky to preside over a 10th place finish. However, maybe we should all move on.

  15. I think that was a brilliant piece which, probably, perfectly, encapsulated the feelings of every, genuine, Sunderland supporter.


    “Someone whose ear is generally close to the ground has heard that Bruce feels bitter and has been sounding off to members of his social circle about Sunderland AFC and some of the players he left behind when the axe fell.”

    That would, I believe, sum up his problems for the following reasons.

    1) Bruce would believe that if he had been given more time then he would have, at least, matched O’Neill’s results.

    2) He will NOT be criticising the performance of the players, whilst he was manager.

    Instead, he will view the, predictable remarks (sycophantic or otherwise), which all new managers attract from the squad they inherit (they are, after all, attempting to get into the new manager’s “good books”) as being disloyal, to him!

    Objective, self analysis never seemed to be his strong point!

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