When I was young I always looked forward to the arrival of “The Shows”. In my case this was Houghton Feast week and I could never wait to get along there. Money was tight and with a limited amount to spend a prudent youth would carefully consider the alternatives. But not me. As soon as I was in amongst the smell of generators, grease, rancid doughnuts and hot dogs I would do my impression of Vivien Nicholson and spend, spend, spend. Then after a toffee apple, candy floss, hook a duck and the waltzers I realised that I hadn’t enough to go on the dodgems which was my favourite. A goldfish and a sickness induced by the aforementioned waltzers never did make up for the chance to bash into some seven year old in a gloriously sparky souped up pedal car. And I was only twenty three!
Pete Sixsmith muses over Steve Bruce’s decision to try his luck with flightless darts when he could have had a go on the air rifles instead …
IF ONLY I HAD WAITED.
Picture the scene if you can : a large house in a leafy Warwickshire village. A large man lives in the large house and he is sat in his large study leafing through rented properties in the vicinity of Hull.
“Beverley looks a nice place, petal,” he says to his wife, while his unemployed son listens intently, wondering whether dad can get him a job with his new company. “There are some lovely villages nearby – Bishop Burton, Westella, and North Cave. It’s all a long way away from my Geordie roots in Wallsend.”
Steve Bruce (for it is he) is a tad frustrated. He had thought he might be returning to Norwich, scene of a successful part of his playing career, but Chris Hughton pipped him to it. Not content with supervising the worst result of Steve’s managerial career, he got his foot in the door while Steve was mulling over a move to the banks of the Humber.
Swansea hadn’t been in touch, while Villa and West Brom had gone for younger men who were not real managers, just glorified coaches. He was far better than they were at schmoozing with the press and telling anecdotes about how he was brought up in the back streets of North Tyneside. The coaching he could leave to others.
His working class background did not extend to living in the city itself. He was unfamiliar with some of the famous names who had walked the streets of Kingston-upon-Hull: William Wilberforce, Phillip Larkin, Big Lill Bilocca, Clive Sullivan, Roy Greenwood. The Hessle Road, with its fishermen’s terraces did not appeal to a man who had managed in the Premier League and was now reduced to trying to get The Tigers out of the Championship back to the Promised Land, where he had resided for the last few years.
It hadn’t quite worked out at Sunderland. Of course it wasn’t his fault. All he’d needed was time for his team to gel and everything would have been all right. Granted, the home form had been a wee bit dodgy, but he just knew that things would work out fine.
Unfortunately, the fans had not been able to see how right he was and the sound of 35,000 booing him and his team after a home defeat to Wigan Athletic was grossly unfair. That American, who he thought was an all right guy, had relieved him of the club Merc a couple of days later and an itinerant Irishman, who knew nothing of the passion of the North East, had come in and turned things around fairly quickly.
He had applied for the job at Wolves, but it was clear that the Wolves owner had decided that a winning team in the Championship was more rewarding than a struggling one in the Premier League, so they had promoted from within and then given the job to a Norwegian.
Liverpool was a possibility – he had the credentials for a Liverpool manager: never won anything but a good man with the microphone, and he could have bought a house at Birkdale and hung around with Hanseny and Lawro in the wine bars and bistros of the village.
But they had appointed an unknown Irishman who had never scored a 97th minute winner to set United on their way to their first League title since Bobby Charlton’s comb-over was the height of fashion, so that one had gone.
Hull it was. Good stadium, although they had to share it with a Rugby League team and relatively undemanding fans, who were far too busy being argumentative and miserable with one another (common traits in the good citizens of this fine East Riding city) to cast aspersions on his pie munching habits and his Geordie roots.
And then came the bombshell of all bombshells. Good Ol’ ‘Arry got the bullet. The Spurs job was available. If only he had waited he could have walked into that office at White Hart Lane and been the Spurs’ manager. They wouldn’t have bothered about whether he was a boyhood Newcastle fan. He could just sit there and manage. He imagined it …
“Gareth, run down the wing and cross the ball.”
“Luca, make some good passes.”
“Brad, make sure you save some goals.”
“Emmanuel, just score a few please.”
No need for any coaching or deep thinking about the game. Just be like Good Ol’ ‘Arry and let the boys do it themselves.
And if (or rather when) it all goes wrong, trouser another huge pay off and reminisce about being a working class hero from Wallsend and leave the thinking to middle class law graduates from Derry/Londonderry or intense Scotsmen from Glasgow.
Spurs, you don’t know what you have missed. Hull, you don’t know what you are getting!