Question: How good must Steve Bruce be feeling?
He’s been chosen from the crème de la crème and thrust into the spotlight by his hometown club, back in the Premier League, back where he started, back where he belongs.
He must be flying, he must be on cloud nine, in seventh heaven, at the Inn of the Sixth Happiness, and in yet more descending numerical idioms until I’ll bet he can barely contain his bladder.
But is he really?
Are any dealings with Spikey Mike truly what they seem?
For instance, if tittle-tattle is to be believed, he wasn’t the first choice. That was Big Sam – who Spikey has already fired once. How good does that make you feel now Steve?
Again, if rumours in the media are true, Spikey thought Steve would be cheap and that Sheffield Wednesday would just roll over when approached to remove their erstwhile team leader. Who, by the way, on joining Wednesday six months ago, had the following to say just before going on a month-long holiday:
Hopefully I’d like to stay here for three, four or five years.
Which is one reason why the Wednesday fans are well p*ssed-off and confronted him at his first pre-season friendly to express their feelings. And to further endear him to the Yorkshire faithful, Bruce then resigned from the Wednesday manager’s job, which, at the time I thought was to leverage the compensation issue with his former employers.
If true - and used as a means to expedite the move - it was a pretty despicable act, and may have saved Spikey (and denied Wednesday) up to £5 million. As it was, we don’t know what the actual payment was, but then looking at his history our Steve has never been shy of pushing the boat out when it comes to furthering his career.
And you could see it from the point of view that... well, it is his hometown club and it’s probably his lifetime ambition... except he’s been offered the job twice before and turned it down both times.
He never played for them so he doesn’t have history with the club, which might provide a link with the fans who are still seething – as only Newcastle fans can – over losing Rafa. In terms of ability they view him as a weak choice, and one who, lest we forget, once managed Sunderland. Although he’s been such a d*ck about that period of his career since he left, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d forgiven him for that.
So, if I was Steve Bruce I’m not sure how good I’d be feeling.
The new season starts in less than four weeks, they’ve lost their best players since the end of last season, have signed no replacements, the fans are already against him and Spikey Mike’s BigCo.com have just announced that they’re delaying publishing their full financial results for this year.
There could be trouble ahead...
Bit of a mess then.
But not as big a mess as Bolton Wanderers. Relegated from the Championship and starting the new season with a 12 point deduction, it turns out they’ve only got seven players including two goalkeepers.
Which smacks of bad planning really.
I mean if you’re only going to have seven players, do you really need two goalies?
At least with six outfield players you can play a 2-3-1 and then ramp it up to a 2-2-2 when you really want to go for it, but with two keepers – and incidentally no defenders in the squad - they may have to hope for special dispensation to play them both at once.
(And they’ll still probably beat us…)
So how important is pre-season and what impact does it really have? There’s Newcastle, already started pre-season with no manager and no new players – if it was that important, couldn’t they have done something about it a bit sooner?
There again, the Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa has already sent his team off to play in Australia but isn’t sure if he’s going to join them as he wants to work with players coming back late from their holidays.
Then there’s the African Cup of Nations still going on and any Premier League players over there will only just be back for the start of the live games. So this historically held belief that the squad must be as together as possible at the start of pre-season and move together through it as a unit must be a complete myth?
And yet, any player transferred at the end of the window who doesn’t perform as expected will be attributed to the fact that he ‘missed pre-season’?
Almost missing pre-season were Manchester City, whose flight to China was cancelled for two days after Thomas Cook failed to arrange the necessary paperwork – a little embarrassing given that the company’s largest shareholder is a Chinese conglomerate that’s about to effect a takeover of the company.
Electing to spend pre-season alone is Laurent Koscielny, the Arsenal defender who’s storming the barricades crying ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité!’ and refusing to go on the USA tour because the club won’t let him return to France.
Being French, Arsenal are lucky that he didn’t blockade Tilbury or dump a ton of manure in Trafalgar Square, but it’s a tricky problem and I’m on Arsenal’s side here. He’s got a year left on his contract and they’ve had no offers for him, so what are they supposed to respond to – or just let him walk away for nothing?
Apparently they’re short of money because of lack of Champions League action, which is probably why they haven’t renamed one of their stands at The Emirates ‘The Wenger Stand’ so far. Actually I think the ‘Arsene End’ sounds better, but unfortunately it’s not up to me.
Heart-tugging story of the week, undoubtedly, is the theft of Daniel Sturridge’s dog Lucci after the break in at his house in LA. Well I say ‘dog’ – it’s a Pomeranian, so it’s the size of a tennis ball and looks like a hairy rat in a static storm. We’re also told that she has her own Instagram account – well, no she doesn’t, get a f-ckin grip, she’s a bloody dog for Christ sake. She has Daniel Sturridge operating an Instagram account on behalf of his dog and quite frankly he should know better.
A distraught Sturridge took to social media to plead for the dog’s return offering to pay ‘whatever it takes’ to get her back – and guess what, those were the magic words and plucky Lucci was returned to its grateful owner upon receipt of whatever it took.
I wonder if Sturridge realises that if he’d had a proper dog with a bark that sounded like it’d outgrown puberty there probably wouldn’t have been a break-in in the first place?
He needs to get a bigger model with teeth to look after Lucci, preferably one with secretarial skills so that it can administer her social media commitments.