Since the Nightmare of St James’ Park, advice on what Bruce should do about Sunderland – or Short and Quinn should do about Bruce – has been flowing thick and fast. There’s been plenty from supporters based around the world as well as those enduring the reality of bragging rights being invoked closer to home. The inquest continues here with Bill Taylor offering Bruce tips from his Canadian exile on the identity of his next captain …
“Obeisant” isn’t a word you come across in everyday conversation. Not the kind of conversations I have, anyway.
My on-line dictionary defines it as “dutiful or submissive behaviour with respect to another person; bending the head or body or knee as a sign of reverence or submission or shame”.
Kind of like what Sunderland did at St. James’ Park on Sunday.
Normally, I would have said we were hammered; that we lay down and let them walk all over us. But “obeisant” sprang to mind after I read about the British Scrabble championship at the weekend. It was one of the words used in the final game by the winner, Mikki Nicholson.
The fact that Nicholson is a transsexual, who wore a pink wig and matching PVC frock, is irrelevant here. Like Sunday’s 5-1 result, it’s just another indicator that the world is a stranger place than most of us realize.
A world so strange that a Premier League manager can get the go-ahead to spend millions of pounds on top-flight players and then keep them on the bench at the outset of every game.
Is Steve Bruce afraid they’re going to wear out? Is that why he usually starts with a gaggle of loaners? And once they’ve shown they’re not quite up to the task, brings the likes of Gyan on to try to salvage a point?
As we recently saw demonstrated over and over in the World Cup, if you play simply to keep from losing, that’s often what you wind up doing. Or, at best, you scramble to a draw and then you try to pretend that it’s an honourable result.
It’s hard to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Magpies (though if the boot were on the other foot, we’d be just as bad) but maybe it’s a good thing that it was Newcastle who pummeled us like this.
If it had been one of the top teams, it would have been far easier to shrug it off and move on. We DO have to move on – as I’ve said before, this was one game, not the whole season – but we can’t shrug it off. That’s made easier by the fact that we were beaten up by our most deadly rivals, a middle-of-the-road side (at best) but led by a manager who has very little to lose.
Chris Hughton has worked wonders at SJP but his job is still not 100-per-cent secure. You get the feeling that if Alan Shearer said, “Hey, I’ve changed my mind,” they’d be handing Hughton his hat and calling him a cab. He needs results; he can’t be complacent. It’s neck or nothing.
Steve Bruce, on the other hand, clearly feels he has security of tenure. Listen to his interview with the BBC – – as he piles platitude upon platitude: men against boys… couldn’t have gone more wrong… caught in the headlights… harsh lesson… can’t complain… dust ourselves down. He says last one several times but concedes that it’ll “take some recovering”.
Does that mean he doesn’t hold out much hope for against Stoke on Saturday, either?
“Maybe,” Bruce admits, “I could have played with a little more experience,” rather than the “young, naïve” players he chose to start the game.
But they’ve been playing well, he insists. Until yesterday, they’d only conceded seven goals. Yeah, but they hadn’t scored many more than that, either. And if Darren Bent, god forbid, had been injured at the start of the season the house of cards would have collapsed long before now. As it is, it’s wobbling perilously.
“You have to live with the decisions you made,” Bruce tells the BBC.
No, you have to learn from them. And he doesn’t. Every week is the same.
“All we can do is apologize to our loyal supporters,” he says.
No, you can make amends to your loyal supporters by changing your approach. You can start by taking the captaincy away from Cattermole and giving it to John Mensah.
I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Niall Quinn talks to Ellis Short. I’d love to know what it is that’s keeping Quinn from tearing a strip off Bruce. What’s happening with the team must be driving Quinn crazy. But there’s no sign that he’s doing anything to change that.
I’m all for having faith in your manager and adopting a hands-off approach. But not when the manager is squandering a formidable array of talent. I wonder how much faith THEY have in him any more.
On paper, Sunderland has a much stronger squad than Newcastle, who I still believe could be floundering close to the relegation zone come the end of the season.
The strongest man on their team is Chris Hughton. Unfortunately, Steve Bruce is looking more and more like the weakest man on ours. And the game’s not played on paper.
One of the other words Mikki Nicholson used to win the Scrabble championship was “inficete”. It means “not funny”. Being obeisant very seldom is. We shouldn’t need a guy in a pink wig and PVC frock to remind us of that.
* Later: always look on the bright side of a 5-1 drubbing