Soapbox on life after Steve Bruce: what happens now?


Pete Sixsmith mulls over the two most-mentioned candidates for the managerial seat left vacant by Steve Bruce’s dismissal …


So, the inevitable
has happened and Steve Bruce has left the club. I was in no doubt after Saturday that he was as close as close could be to the sack; when it didn’t come on Monday, I thought he had been thrown a lifeline, but once again, I was wrong.

The owner has done the correct thing as there was little possibility of Bruce retrieving his relationship with the crowd. Three lengthy periods of turgid football and poor results, interspersed with the odd sparkling display, had done for him and it was better to put this horse out of its misery now.

It has been suggested that the sacking was delayed as a mark of respect to Gary Speed and this may well have played a part in it. It is more likely that the club were sounding out potential candidates before dispensing with his services. The last thing we wanted was to be scrambling around for a manager with two vital games coming up.

The fact that Eric Black has stayed indicates to me that an appointment is imminent. He will probably leave as soon as the new man arrives, the unfortunate thing being that we will also probably lose the excellent Keith Bertschin, who has been a real pleasure to watch as reserve team boss. He is the antithesis of Bruce – calm, thoughtful and full of encouragement.

The two prime candidates are Martin O’Neill and Mark Hughes. Both are available and both would probably relish managing an established Premier League club with strong support and strong potential. Had we retained Bruce and our Premier League status at the end of the season, I would have gone for a younger manager, but this is no time to be taking steps into the unknown, so the likes of Adkins, Lambert and Poyet have missed their opportunity to manage the greatest club in the world.

So, which one do we choose? It’s a bit like Nursey in Blackadder 2 offering Pony Club Queen Elizabeth “right breasty dumpling or left breasty dumpling”. Both are attractive propositions, but there is little real difference between the two.

As I drove home from a postponed game at Bedlington last night, my thoughts fluctuated between the two. Both have a good record in management, both have managed more successful clubs than we have been for umpty dozen years and both are available.

Michael Gray gave a glowing testimonial for Hughes, saying that he would be an ideal fit, while the always excellent and totally reliable Radio 5Live journo Pat Murphy said O’Neill would be very, very interested in taking over and would not necessarily want a huge pot of money to spend on players.

My pal Pete Horan plumps for O’Neill arguing that he is the living embodiment of Brian Clough and a man who is “a perfect fit for Sunderland. No doubt there are others out there who would speak as well for Hughes.

A new era begins. The manager has left, welcome to the new one. We must hope that we will not be echoing The Who’s words “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

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13 thoughts on “Soapbox on life after Steve Bruce: what happens now?”

  1. Also, I’m a she.

    And that makes you all the more intriguing , with a football knowledge far superior to the males on here

  2. @Davey

    In my relentlessly optimistic way, I am choosing to believe that the negative reaction to the last post is a reaction to the Reid question at the end. And not a nasty sort of pillorying exercise because I throught it would be fun/interesting/boredom-relieving to explore the managerial options facing our beloved club at the mo.

    Also, I’m a she.

  3. So all the Short and Ellis bashers from previous posts are now praising them for having such admirable candidates on the shortlist !
    Chat Noir writes by far the best post on here and is rewarded with a load of thumbs down – could that be because he dared post some doubts against the inevitable sacking of Bruce

    Your inevitable thumbs down are more than welcome

  4. It’s a testament to Niall’s input into our club that Hughes and O’ Neill are favourites to get the job.
    What fantastic progress since the dark days of 2006.

  5. Hughes or O’Neill are the only options. I am sure that the owner has sounded out these two as Bruce’s replacement. My head says Hughes, my heart says O’Neill.
    I have been known to be wrong, so let’s prepare a huge welcome for Joe Kinnear.

  6. Hughes’ rather inflated opinion of himself worries me a bit. Nothing wrong with being confident, but I get the impression he belives he should be managing one of the sexy six.

    And he’s still palpably bitter at being sacked by City– I can’t work out if that’s a good or bad quality.

    It would great if he viewed SAFC as a club that he could take to those dizzying heights, but I can’t help wondering if he would see us as a stepping-stone of sorts. You never know what Abramovich is thinking, and if he gives AVB the shove next summer, could Hughes leave us, as he left Fulham? Or if Mr Wenger decides he’s had enough?

    We’d need to ensure he signed a longer contract than the one signed at FFC. Conisistency is so important to success.

    I’ve no qualms with the management style of Hughes (as far as I’ve observed anyway) just his ego.

    MON, as others have mentioned, often comes across as a bit difficult. He’s in the mould of Dalglish and Ferguson in his interviews– if he doesn’t like what he’s being asked, he’ll unleash the beast within. Though his man-management skills have always appeared to be above reproach. I guess that’s what you get for spending all those years with Brian Clough.

    Despite the reported reassurances otherwise, he does seem to need lots of investment. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but in order to prevent a Villa situation here, budget needs to be something he and Mr Short agree on prior to anything being signed.

    In terms of tactical nous, MON is arguably the best man with whom we’ve been linked. His successes with Celtic in particular indicate that.

    McClaren is one of the names that is frequently linked to most clubs, and that his family home is nearby certainly adds fuel to the speculative fire.

    It is rather unfortunate that he’s best remembered as the Wally with the Brolly, and not for his successes at Man United and Boro in this country, and with Twente in ther Eredivisie.

    He is an intriguing possibility and a decent shout for the dark horse spot on the shortlist. McClaren is also extremely well-connected– always comes in handy.

    But it is worrying how quickly Forest sank under him. They were a squad in transition after sacking Billy Davies and selling off Earnshaw who, when fit, was their most consistent goalscorer. But you’d think a man of his intelligence could rebuild a team. Then again, it could have been a Hodsgon/Liverpool situation where the players ostensibily refused to obey their orders. And it didn’t help that the supporters were not terribly enthusiastic from the start.

    Eriksson and Benitez are, I think, even darker horses than McClaren. Ditto Ancelotti. But you never know.

    Peter Reid’s still unemployed. Anyone fancy returning to those halcyon days?

  7. That’s one of the reservations I have, Hilary — that he’s been a “fantasy manager” for so many fans for so long. I’m afraid he wouldn’t/couldn’t live up to expectations. Whoever we get isn’t going to be a miracle-worker and we need to be realistic about that. But if it does come down to him and Hughes and O’Neill does get the job, then I’m behind him 100 per cent.

  8. Bill, interesting observation about O’Neill’s personality. He certainly seems cerebral, although after the last incumbent cerebral sounds good. It could be that if he has a good assistant who complements his skills, his introversion might not be too much of a problem. I would accept Hughes, but it is maybe the romantic in me that is drawn to O’Neill, as someone who has been our fantasy manager for so long. It seems a bit unreal now to think that he actually could be our manager, and perhaps it is just too late. Mixed feelings.

  9. Between tne 2 may heart says O Neill and my head would say Hughes.O Neill has the emotion and passion that this club would fit this club,he has that certain something, an aura.Hughes although competent does not set my heart alight but we will take what we get.

  10. I really think is more than a two horse race and the will need a long term solution. The incumbent must be prepared to move to the area and have the charisma to attract top players. I have a suspicsion Rafa may have been contacted and David Moyes must be sick of cash strapped Everton. We need to consolidate get behind the team and the team which has good players will thrive.

  11. Both have their weaknesses. O’Neill’s, I think, are more apparent and while I can see the comparison to Clough, I’m not sure I agree with it. A friend in Toronto (a Hammers fan) thinks O’Neill comes close to the clinical definition of Asperger syndrome. I’m not sure about that either, but I’m with Malcom — Hughes would bring more to the club. Whoever we get, I hope he has a strong No. 2. Some of Pardew’s success with the Mags has to be credited to his deputy, John Carver. Bruce and Eric Black never had that kind of partnership.

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