Steve Bruce looked a broken man on Match of the Day. Some of the abuse lobbed at him, Salut! Sunderland believes, was unacceptable, but it had hit home. To a large degree, of course, he is the author of his present misfortune. Jeremy Robson, hardly a born again convert to the Bruce Out cause, discusses this latest calamitous era of Sunderland’s managerial history …
For followers of this fine club of ours there has been a sorry history of underachievement apart from the two seventh placed finishes under Peter Reid and the solitary FA Cup win in 1973. I watched it again last night and for the very first time experienced the realisation that this was a long time ago.
Over the period since the now legendary Bob Stokoe delivered the only meaningful silverware in a lifetime we have seen a steady stream of managers who have all achieved various levels of mediocrity if not outright failure.
Those seventh places hardly equate to success. Mention such lofty finishing positions to followers of Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool and they will either laugh uncontrollably or grimace internally at our ludicrous sense of satisfaction and perception of what achievement really means.
There is but one inescapable observation that can be made when conducting any analysis of the records and circumstances in which Sunderland AFC will change their managers. Inevitably, the failings of any manager have tolerated for far longer than they have any right to be tolerated.
Since Alan Durban’s sacking in the early 80s, this has been the case.
His departure is a suitable starting point because over the course of the last 40 years he is the only manager who has been dismissed unfairly and prematurely. If I recall correctly, the only managers who have left without being sacked in the subsequent years are Roy Keane and Ricky Sbragia. Keane was probably feeling the pressure when Ellis Short assumed control of the club, and Sbragia was a desperate short term measure and should never have been considered for the job in the first place. The trend has continued sadly with the current incumbent (at least current while writing this piece).
Steve Bruce’s record is not poor. It’s not a bad record. It is quite frankly deplorable. It has been deplorable in terms of results and performances on the pitch during the majority of 2011, and deplorable for his use of resources for a whole lot longer.
As happened with so many of his predecessors, it has been tolerated. But unlike the majority of his predecessors, Bruce has been all too ready to look for excuses and to pass the blame to any convenient scapegoat. In recent times that role has been fulfilled by the fans, who have remained loyal in their support despite woeful and inept displays endured for months on end.
Bruce claims that the fans’ expectations are too high, yet he presides over at team that has played 15 home games since the turn of the year, and have won twice. I really wonder what this increasingly beleaguered manager considers to be a reasonable expectation given that the latest defeat was at the hands of the PL’s basement club, which doubled its goals for tally for the season in 90 minutes at the Stadium of Light.
The fans with the overblown expectations have been incredibly patient with his dire and consistent failure, poor football, tactical naivete, and inability to manage and hold on to star players. Today it changed and the fans got on his back. Their frustration boiled over, resulting in personal attacks on Bruce himself. It’s not pleasant to hear, but
if there’s anything surprising about this it’s the fact that it didn’t begin some time ago. It’s indicative of a support with low expectations if anything. Tolerate it and keep on turning up.
Bruce insists that he won’t quit, despite the fact that the fans have turned on him. According to Sky Sport, his response was as follows:
“It borders on abuse. When it gets like it is, it’s disappointing to hear, but I’m a resilient so-and-so and I’ve taken stick all my life and come through it and I’m determined to see it through.”
We know you won’t quit, Steve, and we know exactly why. Despite the fact that you are a country mile short of what’s needed to do this job, you simply have no shame. Not to mention that quitting might cost you a packet. You clearly have no sense of self respect and none for the fans who pay your wages. But why would you deserve or expect any in return?
* Amid much gallows humour on the eve of the Wigan game, Jeremy and M Salut compared notes on what Steve Bruce would say after the final whistle. I offered: “I can’t fault the lads. They gave their all and so nearly getting a clean sheet was a positive. Sadly, Wigan did keep one but they’ve been in the Premier for a long, long time – 20 minutes at the very least – and it shows. We’ve just got to keep plugging away and results will come, starting soon.”
Jeremy responded with: “There are no easy games in the Premier League let me tell you, and they don’t come any tougher than Wigan at home. Everybody thinks that the toughest fixtures are at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. Wigan came here fighting for their lives and they will always make it hard.
“Their record away speaks for itself. They scored twice away from home this season, and that record isn’t too dissimilar to ours despite what some of our supporters think. They came here today probably expecting us to get a 0-0 or even a score draw, but they need to realise that you can’t stop the opposition scoring every week. I know that means that we have to score to maybe get the draw if we go a goal down, but they need to be more realistic. It’s no good coming down here every week expecting us to score goals; That’s just not going to happen. If they are expecting goals every game, then I’m disappointed.
I thought we missed Elmo today as he gives us something different down the right hand side. Don Hutchison is his prime would have been a real asset in the middle of the park, and maybe a 23 year old Kevin Phillips would have made the difference. But I can’t fault the lads for effort and the gap between ourselves has narrowed because we’ve lost a game that we could and should have drawn. With 89 minutes left, I said to Eric that I thought ‘we are going to get the draw here’.
But then they scored unfortunately after a quarter of an hour and there was no way back from there. It was hard on the lads after we had dominated the game for 40-50 seconds. We’ll be back on the training ground on Monday working hard to put things right. As I said before, I’m disappointed, but that’s football.”
OK, 2-1, not 1-0, so we did score and we didn’t “so nearly” keep a clean sheet. But neither of us, sadly, was too far off the mark.