Why Sunderland need Bruce more than we needed Bent

Eric Sweeney* is the latest addition to Salut! Sunderland‘s stable of writers. A lot of us have been fretting about false dawns. Eric – flanked in the photo by friend and brother – rightly identifies the substantial positives we sometimes overlook …


As another transfer window
draws to a close it’s worth reflecting on how far Sunderland have come in the past four years.

Niall Quinn brought with him serious investment that propelled the club back to the Premier League where we know the club belongs. Roy Keane seemed to be buying a new player each passing week and our potential knew no boundaries.

I recall Richardson talking of Europe and who could doubt him after Chopra’s late winner against the mighty Spurs?

Reality soon sank in and the limitations of our bulging squad and use of financial resources soon became evident.

Keane had brought optimism and promotion but also a huge degree of ego coupled with inexperience in management.

Steve Bruce wasn’t a popular appointment; we’d been promised a world class manager with proven pedigree only to get a Mag from Wigan with a colourful past in management.

And yet … since then we can have no complaints about how he has directed this club towards the next level. Every weakness the club had under Keane has been rectified and is hardly worth mentioning today.

Keane had spoken of players and their wives being reluctant to move to the North East, justifying his panicky moves in the transfer market. We now have a patient team of screwed (surely shrewd, someone says below, though Eric may have meant “heads screwed on” – ed) negotiators marshalled by Bruce looking for value at every opportunity. It is no longer a case of Sunderland reserves topping their league while the first team languishes close to the relegation zone of the one that actually matters.

How Bruce has turned the club around should be a lesson to all would-be managers.

First he set out to move players on rather than beg the chairman for new funds to acquire more players. Then he targeted young and hungry players, nevertheless insisting on quality rather than quantity. The players are growing under his man management and the club can profit from any player’s departure.

Bruce will replace Bent and the club will continue to grow under his management. Football is a crazy game; we give the reins to people with no business education and expect them to make wise financial decisions.

But Bruce is a behaving like the seasoned CEO of a major company. Every penny is spared and accounted for when the opportunity arises.  

Niall has been an excellent chairman but he needs to do one thing very quickly and that is to get Bruce under a long term contract.

We only have to look at the plight of Wigan, Chelsea, Liverpool and Inter Milan this season to be reminded of how important our managers are today. We could be the next team on that list, or be in Europe next year and beyond. I look forward to the latter.

* Eric Sweeney on himself:
I’m not a local, born in Limerick, Ireland and I have two sporting loves – Munster Rugby being the other. I am living in Switzerland at the moment because of the recession back home. Sunderland people are similar to people from Limerick, so I’ve loved them since I went there. Great fans who love football. I am obsessive about the team and I miss having my say so I need to write instead since no one here knows anything about football. I’m 27 and I come over twice a year or whenever I can afford! My jersey has Cana on my back so I need another but at least it doesn’t say Bent!

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18 thoughts on “Why Sunderland need Bruce more than we needed Bent”

  1. Malcolm – I forgot completely, absolutely right. To my editor – honestly a great editing job you did on the piece, I see now not to get on your bad side!!

  2. Eric – I don’t think lending us Daniel Sturridge was an option for Chelsea even if they would have been happy to do so. I think (though no doubt someone will correct or confirm) that Premiership clubs are only allowed a maximum of two players from other English clubs. Onohua and Welbeck are our two. There is no limit on those from abroad though hence Muntari joining Mensah and Elmohamady is not a problem.

  3. Lesson to Eric: never slag off the editor on your first assignment.

    This was the relevant bit as submitted:


    We now have a patient team of screwed negotiators marshalled by Bruce looking for value at every opportunity. Sunderland reserves are no longer top of the league while our first team languish close to the relegation zone.

    No 10,000 guineas fee, then. But all is forgiven; it was a good piece.

  4. I had to have a peek at these comments at work and some excellent views here, have to say to Yiannis that the one transfer that caught eye was Daniel Sturidge to Bolton – exactly the type of transfer we were in the market for but who knows maybe Chelsea see us as too much of a threat to lend players of that quality to? On my Freudian slip as Martin put it – I blame the Editor, I dont even think that was in the original copy! Bring on Chelsea tonight…

  5. As one who has banged heads with Martin a number of times over Bruce’s abilities, I’m forced to admit that I’ve come a long way toward his way of thinking. If SB has erred occasionally on the side of caution, it’s still paid off with a healthy position in the table for a team solid enough to have shrugged off the departure of Darren Bent (who?).

    Yeah, I was hoping Bruce would pick up a striker but not for the sort of silly money that was being asked. If, god forbid, Gyan does pick up an injury or loses form for a while, I think we’re good enough to pick up the slack and carry on. That’s largely down to SB and all credit to him. So by all means let’s get his signature on a long-term contract. Otherwise, I’m afraid Jeremy is right — we’ll only really appreciate him after he’s gone.

    All things being equal, I’ll be flying from Frankfurt back to Toronto when today’s game is played but the first thing I’ll do when I get home is check the result. It’s 10 years, isn’t it, since we last beat Chelski home and away? We’re due for another double!

  6. Really excited to see Muntari in action Martin, great acquisition! Don’t know too much about the other lad, but from the footage on youtube he looks like a great player. Heres hoping that we continue our rich vein of form, against chelsea! Do the double over chelsea? wouldn’t have been thinking that at the start of the season

  7. Did sloppy editing allow screwed for shrewd? Or is my newly inserted aside – suggesting he may have meant heads screwed on – the perfect get-out? Only Eric can tell …

    Martin: I very nearly dedicated the articles to you. I thought instantly of you when Eric sent me it.

  8. I can only trust Bruce when he say’s ‘their is no value in the market’. Andy Carroll’s switch has proven this. £35 million for someone who was outscored in the Championship last season by 5 other players. Madness.

    Kieran Richardson can play off Gyan, as proved in the summer tournaments, and his 2 goals against Blackpool. It also looks like Stephane Sessegnon is a bit crafty in that position too…

    If we can pull this off, then we will all be smiles come the end of the season, and who knows, perhaps Darren Bent’s replacement will be September’s shock transfer. All I know is, Bruce knows what he’s doing

  9. Excellent article Eric – and I quite enjoyed the Freudian slip!! Maybe they get screwed (in the carnal sense) the night before they negotiate which in turn leads them to shrewdness on the day of the deal !!

    Yiannis – I wondered who was going to be the first to rubbish Steve Bruce for not getting a striker!!! You win the wooden spoon mate – and well done indeed!

    The fact that he didn’t pay a ridiculous inflated price for someone who would probably end up as one of our second string strikers is in fact BUSINESS WISDOM. I confess that I am a little concerned that at the moment we only have Gyan, and he has shown intermittent flashes of what he’s capable of, but he does seem to shrink in the heat of battle. But I whole-heartedly support the manager for his decision not to buy for the sake of buying. He has gone to great pains to explain that the January market is notorious for panick buying, and over-inflation. Apparently Stoke wanted 5 million for Fuller (one of their substitutes) at age 31. That’s almost a quarter of Bents fee! If someone of quality was available for a fair price, I’m sure Brucie would have bought him.

    One of the things I love about Mr Bruce is that he addresses the fans directly. That to me is a huge mark of courtesy and respect. I heard him say numerous times “I have to say to the Sunderland fans that I will not be spending 20 million on a player in January, I will look at buying somebody long term in the summer, but because of our injuries, if I can find someone with a bit of quality in the short term I will bring him in”. It turns out that he didn’t – and I trust his judgement. He was as shocked as anyone else about the timing of Darren “money-grabbing, two-timing, fickle fella” Bent’s transfer. But asking him to find the right man in less than two weeks was asking too much – even for him.

    He is right to wait until the summer, so that he can invest the necessary research and effort (which has already started), so that the money can be spent wisely and productively.

    So Yainnis – whilst I understand your concern, I don’t think you grasp the bigger picture.
    As for his less successful dips into the transfer market – did anyone question the acquisition of PDS or Christian Riveros at the time – I think not. Some South Americans adapt to the country/culture/climate/intensity/language and others don’t. And they haven’t.

    Steve takes calculated risks. He has a better instinct about players than most other managers. His record speaks for itself, despite his failures. And Ian is right about his ability to instill mental strength. It’s a huge part of the modern game.

    Steve’s a sound geezer and a better manager. One of the first things I noticed about him was his reluctance to support and retain the services of lesser players. When he sold Danny Collins, most fans were horrified! That’s because we were so accustomed to 2nd/3rd rate players, and the ones who despite their lack of ability, but who ran their lungs out and became popular.

    SB has bigger ideas. He has just bought Stephane Sessagnon and Sulley Muntari !! Is anyone else as excited about that as I am??!! I hope and pray that neither Manyoo or England don’t come calling, because for once, for the very first time since I followed the advice of a wise man and fell head over heels in love with Sunderland, we have a manager with genuine capability, genuine passion for the club, and genuine desire to achieve – and with all that cometh genuine hope!

    Sorry to waffle on, but I feel strongly that we should all be embracing the positive changes initiated by our current management!

    While writing this in intervals (due to wife’s nagging about “blogging about that wretched team”) I just refreshed the page and saw Jeremy’s point about SB being from “Wallsend”. My final point was going to be that we should be cutting the guy some slack now regarding his roots. Especially after his bluntness about how he felt about their “lack of class” when they played ‘that song’ when they thrashed us at SJP. And his overweight style celebration when Gyan skillfully chested in our equalizer at the SOL!!

    I hope he reads our thread Jeremy, and he will be aware of his growing appreciation in the now.

    I see that Keith also hits on some of the above points regarding lesser players. It’s great to see that we’re all starting to acknowledge the ability of the man. Fact is – he did it at Wigan, but couldn’t follow it through due to their need to cash in.

    The higher we finish, the better life will be, but compared to the vast majority of my tenure as a Sunderland fan, I’m as happy as a sky lark, even if we finish a lowly 4th.

  10. Bruce need the support of the people he has done a tremdous job of work and the team have change beyod belief. The transfer market is a gamble but the sale of Bent sent the thing into an upward vortex of cash, 50 mil for Torres 35 mill for Carrol not a market where value for money can be obtained. Muntari and Sessegnon will prove great buys I am sure of that. These are top players. The likes of Stoke have bought many ex Sunderland players Whithead Lawrence, Delap. Jones, Higginbotham thease players will give you mid table mediocrity at best that is why Bruce moved them on he wants better for the club, Bent was a blow but but we will get over it, these are exciting times we have a good captain at the rudder keep him there for 20 years and we will thrive

  11. No sorry, wrong. We were promised a world class manager before Keane got the job. Niall explained later he meant a world class person. Everyone was shocked when a rooky like Roy Keane was appointed.

  12. I have this nagging feeling that the widespread support that Bruce really is deserving of will only be forthcoming when he’s gone.

    It’s all down to the lad being from Wallsend. That’s an accident of birth. He had no control over that. Any bloke who was born into “Magdom” and had being a Mag imposed on him by birth and family, yet had the good sense to turn them down as a player and then again as a manager is alright by me. Especially when he made a professional decision to come and manage us.

  13. Surely, shrewd, not screwed, negotiators, no? Anyway, welcome Eric. Good article. I like Bruce, too, though I am not quite as on board as you. He is doing a good solid job, however. Here’s to keeping it going.

  14. I think this is a good article, well written and very true. The club has moved forward since Bruce’s appointment and I would say that supporters around the country recognise Sunderland’s progress and consolidation in the EPL. Home fans should also recognise short term objectives, maintaining the current league position before replacing DB – we can stay where we are and then have more choice at the end of the season.

  15. Good article!
    To Yiannis, Welbeck is said to be back earlier than what was first said, so a guess would be that we only have to go through four or so games before we have a striker to back up Gyan. Don’t know how long before Campbell is back, but I don’t think it’s that much longer?

    Anyway, IF Gyan is injured within the next two or three games, things are going to get a bit tough, but that’s a gamble we’re obviously willing to take given what a stop-gap striker would cost. IF he is injured Sessegnon is said to be able to play as an emergency striker, with Kieran right behind him – so I don’t think the team will implode if were to be without a recognized striker for two or three games, and that’s the worst case scenario.

    Gyan can cope playing 90mins for a few games and let’s face it, the risk he’s getting a serious injury during this time is rather small. Here’s hoping everything goes well!

  16. I think Bruce has done a great job, – but the thing he has done for S’land is to “change the mentality”. Now we are mentally tougher, harder to beat at home and useful away.

    His dips into the transfer market have had mixed success. The three South Americans, P.Da Silva, Angeleri and Riveros might be seen as failure, but others like Gyan, Elmo, Catts etc look to be inspired.

    Its good for the owner that Bruce is money-minded. Bruce knows the books have to balance.

    I had mixed feelings when Bruce was hired as manager, but on the whole he’s done a very good job.

  17. Fair enough, i consider myself a Bruce fan to.
    But how on earth does someone justify his “business wisdom” by not getting in a replacement striker even if only in the short term?
    Wasn’t it the same person that said that strikers were really important and that is why they cost so much?
    Will Asa be able to go through (i don’t know) how many games without even being substituted?
    And if he doesnt will that cost SAFC money? I ‘d like to remind people that each position in the EPL wins you an extra 500.000 pounds.
    I trust the guy cause he has done well but i’m sincerely in shock!

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