As reported by the Sunderland Echo, Bruce’s dream come true of managing Newcastle ‘was never his dream,’ at least not as he suggested during his time on Wearside.
Maybe he remembers things differently from the everyone else?
In a newspaper interview back in March 2012, Bruce sang his own praises for finishing tenth the previous season at Sunderland but stated how one derby defeat instantly turned the tide on Wearside against him. Indeed, according to Steve Bruce, he felt his failure to win the Tyne–Wear was the reason the Sunderland fans turned against seemingly the most successful manager on Wearside since Peter Reid. He also cited his Tyneside roots as being behind his unpopularity.
As I pointed out at the time in a letter to the Football Echo, when his tenure was still very fresh in the mind:
Bruce seems to have quite conveniently forgotten about a very poor run of form from February 2011 up to the end of last season, baring one or two results. Not to mention how fortunate Sunderland and Bruce were on the final day of the 2010/11 season.
Without that minor miracle in the final ten minutes of three other matches, Sunderland would have probably finished 13th in the table, as the previous season.
He can be good at talking-up his achievements, but unfortunately for him, we don’t all have short memories. At the start of his second season he’d predicted a tenth-place finish, which was achieved. But at Christmas of that season Sunderland were flying, they were sixth and looked a good prospect to finish in the European places.
Unfortunately Sunderland lost Darren Bent, and by April Bruce’s annual dry spell of results had kicked in. It was only by the grace of a home win against his former side Wigan that secured Sunderland another season in the Premier League - such had been the club’s slide.
We all have a different viewpoint on his time at Sunderland, as is football. While Bruce’s point of view seems to change daily, or at least as often as his loyalties. But if/when his latest role at Newcastle ends, what will he blame?
He can’t blame his Geordie roots this time, after all, everyone at St James’ knows, ‘he’s from Wallsend’…
He can’t blame his failure to win a derby, because it is unlikely he’ll be manager long enough to encounter Sunderland in the opposite dugout.
While from the latest reports he can’t even blame the lack of funds permitted him by Mike Ashley. If figures are correct, he may have spent more on two or three players with the Mags than during his time at Sunderland, albeit during different financial times respectively.
So, if or when things do unravel on Tyneside, it might just dawn on Mr Steve Loyalty Bruce that many fans who have called for his head during a twenty-year stint in management, to date, aren’t doing so because they are clueless. Perhaps, they are just not as short-sighted as Bruce’s tactics or transfer policy. After all, tactics and transfers are the basis for the results game. It may be news to Bruce, but it was results, or lack of, above everything that most Sunderland fans became increasingly frustrated by.
I was one of those Sunderland fans right behind him and thought with a little more money he could have achieved something on Wearside. But he had to grow with the size of the club and weight of expectation. He couldn’t do that, and some suggested the Black Cats were an expensive version of his former side Wigan.
He was unfortunate in losing his best assets but also in the wake of that failed to utilise other players the way he should. He didn’t plug gaps when he could have done, and it was that which cost him. So, instead of turning the attention on Sunderland fans after his sacking, he should have recognised his own failings and where he needed to improve. But for Bruce if your first game plan doesn’t work, find an excuse rather than a plan B, because as Sunderland fans will testify, a plan B is something Brucie will never have.