A week ago, we were hard on those spouting doom and gloom on the strength of an iffy pre-season and a disappointing opening game. But then, after a dismal showing at West Brom (and there is no other sensible way of looking at it), a check on the games to come revealed us to be in a potential pickle. Ask today and we would not replace Steve Bruce. But there are those, eyeing a newly available chap with impeccable credentials from Villa Park, who would disagree. Let Mike Allcock*, a Sunderland fan now living in America, address the point made by Andy Nichol, a fellow subscriber to the Blackcats list: “Well if I was Ellis Short, I’d be inviting O’Neill to dinner over the next few weeks. Just in case, of course.” Salut! Sunderland awaits the opposing view …
Dinner with Martin would be a positive step.
Yes it’s early days for this season, but midterms time for Bruce. He’s made some good decisions as well as some poor ones; he’s far and away better than some of the sh*** we got used to in the late 80s/early 90s and compared with other Sunderland managers in recent years he has a pretty good record. I don’t think Steve Bruce is failing as a manager of SAFC.
However you have to put it in the context of what he, and the club, have publicly stated and measure his progress against the jointly stated aims.
He wasn’t hired on the basis that he’d be a little better than Ricky Sbragia. He was given funding and control to further consolidate SAFC’s position in the Premier; to build a team and a long term plan capable of taking Sunderland forward.
He’s responded by selling off some competent players and replacing them with players who while on their day are better, are often injured, suspended or have fallen out with him. His fabled foreign scouting system has turned out players either clearly not good enough or that he doesn’t fancy. Strengthening the spine of the team has been largely positive, yet Cattermole and Turner are constantly suspended,
Mensah often injured and Cana is gone. That leaves Bent who, while a good signing, really wasn’t too much of a risk and is tempered a little by the fact that he may end up costing the club £16 million.
Still good value, but a good bit of judgment rather than a miracle.
Added to this is an aversion to wide players, a love of playing players out of position and some baffling decisions (Kilgallon is the most obvious). Andy, speaking good sense as usual, mentioned the Bramble shopping trip, which in itself is alright I think but certainly not who he set out to buy.
Flogging our second highest scorer and then publicly courting a player who ends up going to Cardiff City is another example of this. Days after a pronouncement about Cattermole needing to learn both on and off the pitch more too; opinions may differ on his effectiveness but I think we’re all agreed that if you’re looking to curtail disciplinary problems and set examples then Craig Bellamy is not going to be your first choice signing.
I think Mr Short and Mr Quinn have been shortchanged, again, Steve Bruce is certainly not a failure as a manager.
But he has failed to meet the aims of the people who hired him and the floundering is increasing with every change he makes. It’s not crisis time, but potential replacements like Martin O’Neill are not on the market every day.
Having lunch with him now would be a smart thing to do. If nothing else, Ellis short can learn from Steve Bruce that making tough decisions without a backup plan in place is not always a wise thing to do.
* Mike Allcock is, on his own account, “actually in what could be broadly termed the Appalachians though it’s probably clearer to just say Pittsburgh, PA (as that’s where I work, even though we live a little out of the city, in West Virginia).