Do they mean us? Arsenal, Manchester United, Spurs bosses on Bruce

New Feet and jeepImage: Psiaki

Years ago, but some months after the changeover from typewriters to computers, a dopey newsdesk man where I then worked surprised colleagues by asking: “Tell me again. How is it that you log on?”

The poor soul was ridiculed. But I quite like dinosaurs.

Perhaps I was alone in warming to Steve Bruce on reading that he barely knew how to send an e-mail until quite recently, and looked completely blank when asked whether the fitness of his Egyptian signing Elmohamady would be affected by fasting during Ramadan. The reporter persisted: “Or is Elmohamady a Coptic Christian rather than a Muslim then?” And Bruce – who might more pertinently have been asked on what footballing grounds Elmo had been bought – looked blanker skill.

Bruce is said to be hurt by his sacking. You would think his team’s record throughout this year had been so poor that the supporters had much more reason to be nursing emotional wounds, but he is entitled to his feelings and I certainly wish him well in whatever he does next.

I said when urging his dismissal earlier this week that he seemed a decent man who had done his best for the clu. And I hold to that view with the important qualification that while Bruce’s place of birth does not matter a jot to me, the fact that his best turned out not to be a long way short of good enough matters a great deal.

But three top seven Premier managers have also had their say. The overall impression – though Arsène Wenger makes no direct mention of the role of Sunderland supporters in Ellis Short’s decision – is that they think we’re a pretty ungrateful, and – that Bruce word – unrealistic bunch.

So for the record:

Harry Redknapp (column in the Sun)

“Sunderland fans will doubtless be celebrating getting their wish in seeing the back of Steve Bruce. Yet unless the men with the purse strings at the Stadium of Light are prepared to loosen them, it won’t matter who they get as a replacement.

Brucie got the bullet when the side failed to reach the expectations on them. But I’d ask how realistic those expectations really are right now? Because unless you are prepared to pay really big money for top, top players, it is almost mission impossible.

Steve was basically working in the middle market — and I mean no disrespect to the players there — when it came to transfers. This season he was relying on loan signings like Nicklas Bendtner or youngsters with great potential such as Connor Wickham … I noticed plenty of fans complaining because he was born in Newcastle but that’s just a crazy situation. OK, he may be a Geordie by birth but he didn’t play for them and I can’t fathom that sort of logic. By that reckoning I’d only be able to manage West Ham.”

Arsene Wenger (Arsenal club site)

“I think it is a mistake because the one to question at Sunderland is certainly not Steve Bruce. He has competence, the desire to win and he is the last one I would question on that.

Unfortunately he went through a bad run and paid the price. I’m pretty sure that he should not have done. Change does not always sort out problems, history shows that it is not successful. It is statistically proven that a change of manager is not always successful.

A club that creates its own instability is always in trouble – it is linked with technical stability, change of players, financially being in the red. All that together is linked with a change of manager.”

Sir Alex Ferguson (TalkSport and elsewhere):

“Fans just don’t have the patience any longer, just see what happened to Steve Bruce up in the North East where being a Geordie didn’t help him. In that part of the world they are so passionate and committed to their football team.

I think Brucie has suffered because of that but that’s the kind of supporters we have these days – no patience. He rebuilt a whole team and that requires a bit of patience from everyone, including Steve. I think Steve was realising that himself that he was going to have to wait. There was a complete turnaround in the summer, they lost a few players – the boy [Jordan] Henderson, the boy [Asamoah] Gyan, Anton Ferdinand and you need that time. I think losing to Newcastle earlier on in the season didn’t help him either because of the way they are in that part of the world.”

Leave aside Redknapp’s patronising tone and you are left with scant analysis of the keys errors Bruce is held to have made. No mention of the unimaginative approach to tactics, the inability to make changes mid-match to counter growing opposition control or build on a narrow early lead or the questionable packing of the squad with journeymen midfielders.

But it is probably the case that in so far as they think about the affairs of Sunderland AFC at all, the supporters of the clubs managed by Ferguson, Redknapp and Wenger broadly share their views. We are not, to them, a club with a mighty, proud history – a history that neutrals not expecting 100th birthday greetings from the Queen would struggle to recall – but a yo-yo team that cannot decide whether its natural habitat is top tier or the next division down.

If Martin O’Neill is appointed, it is to be hoped that, finally, we will have a manager whose own pride and skills are matched by the owner’s ambition. For now, Sunderland supporters not given to those unrealistic expectations would settle for a swift upwards acceleration from the relegation zone – and the rare feeling of looking forward to each game.

Monsieur Salut

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13 thoughts on “Do they mean us? Arsenal, Manchester United, Spurs bosses on Bruce”

  1. Perhaps Fergie is thinking of finally calling it a day and prepaing the ground so that the Glazers will appoint SB as the next Man Ure manager. He can then explain to them that it wasn’t Bruce’s team selections, tactics, inflexibility, training methods, hopeless substitutions, limp excuses or poor results that resulted in his departure but the 40,000 bigots in the crowd who never accepted him.

  2. The opinions of Redknapp, Wenger, and Ferguson matter as much to me as Steve Bruce’s origins.

    I do like the quote from Ferguson that the fans are impatient. What a laugh that is coming from him. You can bet if Man Utd, the Spuds or the Gunners had our record over the last 12 months that they would have been sacked months ago. The Man Utd fans are maintaining a protest against the Glazers which has run so long that I’ve forgotten what their protests are about. There’s not a lot for them to complain about down there unless it’s the sky high prices of prawn sandwiches.

    I might have been interested if any one of them was capable of telling the truth once in a while. I feel a lot more comfortable seeing Redknapp speak (rather than read quotes) though because his lips move when he’s lying.

  3. I guess with Fergie, its partly paternalistic. Steve is part of the big Man U family and did bring some useful deals Ferguson’s way. I doubt any of the three would actually want Bruce as their assistant or want to hand over the reins of their jobs to him. As someone said it is the manager’s union speaking.

    Interesting that Rednapp calls him Brucie-you have a sense that Steve is the most laddish of the lads, and it is that which endears him to his more illustrious fellow managers. His lack of technical know how and dated approach to his job, contribute to an image which is essentially non threatening. There is a part of all of us which quite likes dinosaurs, but there is also an arrogance in ignoring aspects of the modern game such as sports psychology and advanced approaches to diet, and thinking that you know better. Decent man I am sure in many ways, but he deserved to go. He was not a good enough manager.

  4. Spot on about the ‘old boys network’. Fergie’s comments are about what you’d expect. Redknapp can go to hell or jail but Wenger’s comments are quite shocking as he seems to be having a go at Ellis Short.
    I’m sure Short will simply remain quiet, dignified and, as time goes on, fully justified in his actions of not just this week but the last 12 months. The player turnover under Bruce was poor and he couldn’t keep players happy, whining about Bent 12 months after he first wanted to leave was embarrassing too. Onwards and upwards Ellis!

  5. As said before its the old Managers club operating here.I cannot ever remember a manager saying another deserved to be sacked.So I would nt read too much into it.Besides it matters not a jot what they think,its what the supporters and Ellis think that matters.

    But I d love to see how their jobs went after going a WHOLE YEAR with 3 home wins.The Newcastle issue is a slight red herring,Bruce was welcomed here in the beginning,sure it was an issue for a minority,but he went because he had lost the majority of supporters re preformances not because he was a Mag.

  6. PG67: please engage brain before posting comment.The three managers have no knowledge experience or track record in comparison with you. Surprised the media haven’t been in touch. They are obliged to give weekly press interviews and are asked their opinions as some beleive theyt have value. The right to have an opinion is called democracy. Don’t want none of that eh PG67???

  7. I think Harry should keep his opinions to himself. It wasn’t that long ago he thought his missus was better than Darren Bent and his chairman was asking silly money for less than “middle market” players, Chimbonda, Tanio, Malbranque, Crouch, Palacios. Furthermore, he hasn’t had to watch the tripe served up by Bruce over the last 12 months. We keep hearing managers asking for stability (and I agree) but Bruce’s years at SAFC were the most unstable EVER in terms of player turnover. …

  8. No matter what your opinion of Bruce, this Geordie thing doesn’t stand up. Who have we got as a statue outside the Stadium? Not only did Bob Stokoe play for Newcastle, he was their captain. He was revered throughout Sunderland as the Manager who took us to FA Cup glory against Leeds.

  9. Chatnoir_safc – all very true but they could just not pass comment. Quite reasonable to ask hacks to focus on the upcoming game instead.

    SAF’s comments re SB’s Geordie roots irritated me. We’re not one-eyed partisans. The media seem quite focused on this angle and SAF has just added more fuel to the fire.

    Anyway, I’m sad it didn’t work out with SB as the initial period looked promising both on the field and in his transfer dealings off the field (have another look at the people he sold that first summer and how much he got for them).

  10. It is no more or less than the managers union kicking in. And it will pass.

    It would be good if they were marginally better informed before they passed comment. Same for some of the journalists – I’ve seen too many pieces commenting that its early in the season for a sacking…..these guys obviously forgot to research what happened between January and May.

    Good luck to Steve Bruce in whatever he does next…he tried his best, and in my view made some progress, but ultimately fell well short of what is required.

    Time to keep the faith and get behind the team, and the next man whoever it turns out to be.

  11. I’d imagine that every manager is being asked about Bruce/Sunderland in his pre-match comference as well.

    I know it can be difficult to not take it personally when they’re talking about our club, but for me I’m not seeing anything designed to be insulting. Those are the same perfunctory remarks trotted out whenever any manager is sacked.

    No-one is going to say ‘Bruce should have gone; he was awful.’ It’s impolite and undignified.

    This weekend I guarantee we’ll be hearing variations of:
    ‘Bruce wasn’t given enough time to complete his vision’; ‘Bruce is a good man who doesn’t deserve his shabby treatment’; ‘the itchy trigger fingers of chairmen are lamentable these days’; ‘supporters are too fickle these days’ from everyone asked. Same as we heard last season when Allardyce and Hughton and Hodgson and Ancelotti were sacked.

    It’ll all blow over in a few days anyway, once the new manager is announced.

  12. Messrs Redknapp, Wenger and Ferguson have assembled teams with international players, young players and experienced hands. Those teams have, generally, gone out and done the business, as is expected of them.

    Steve Bruce has assembled a team of internationals, young players and experienced hands. They have, frequently, not done the business. What should our expectations be, and who should be held responsible if they are not met?

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