One of the few Championship matches I attended last season was in April when Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest played out a meaningless mid-table fixture at Hillsborough with neither club posing threat of relegation with both also mathematically adrift of the playoffs.
On the day Sheffield Wednesday managed by Steve Bruce who landed the gig just two months earlier were far too good for Forest who themselves were amidst a new regime under Martin O’Neill at the helm since January. Sitting in the Leppings Lane End I thought to myself as Wednesday romped home 3-0 under the red spring evening skies that for both Managers their building had just begun and by this time next season they could easily be challenging for a top six spot as both undoubtedly have track records for achieving success at similar size clubs.
Fast forward three months and neither are in charge of the aforementioned. This is modern day football after all.
For Steve Bruce who quit Sheffield Wednesday yesterday linked with a move to problematic Newcastle United all be it for the glitz and glamour of the English Premier League I just don’t get it?
It is no secret that Newcastle United are currently up for sale, they have been for a while now and their billionaire Owner Mike Ashley has made his feelings known by running the club on a shoe string budget by providing just enough cash in order to retain Premier League status whilst keeping the books positive enough to attract any potential buyers. This strategy has so far worked thanks to the impeccable service of previous manager Rafa Benitez who eventually had enough this summer and walked on the understanding his task of keeping Newcastle up was coming more and more improbable the longer the clubs future remained under doubt and more worryingly the longer the club was under the dictatorship of Ashley.
For Ashley and Newcastle I am surprised they went all in for Bruce, a former Sunderland Manager under contract at Sheffield Wednesday, rumours are that should Bruce agree terms at St James’s Park, Ashley will hand over £4m for him which considering the club is trying to run a tight ship, perhaps an out of work coach (Mark Hughes, David Moyes, Hughton or Pardew perhaps) would have been a better (or cheaper) short term solution? This after all is only a short term solution isn’t it?
As for Steve Bruce? 18 games in to his Sheffield Wednesday career and on the basis of what I saw looking like improving a squad that has flattered to deceive for far too long largely in the second tier of English football, I genuinely felt with a pre-season he could be pushing the owls into contention for promotion and who’s to say in a years’ time they could have been knocking on the Premier League door at pretty much the same time that Newcastle could be exiting it? However there is no loyalty in management as three bad results can often signify the end so I get why he didn’t stay? I just worry by taking the job at Newcastle is he now closer to the axe then he ever has been at Sheffield Wednesday, this without even taking charge of a game for the toon yet.
Under Ashley, Bruce is on a hiding to nothing. He’ll get little money and has little time to implement his way before the season start in four weeks time. He’ll get little support from the fans who have already shown their frustration and being an ex Sunderland gaffer won’t adhere their love to him any quicker?
With Arsenal, Tottenham & Liverpool all to face Newcastle in the opening five games Bruce must deliver against Norwich & Watford in those sandwiched in between otherwise a very low points total might mount the pressure on further?
Should Bruce be lucky enough to get off to a good start there’s no guarantees any potential buyers or new owners would indeed want him either? It seems an odd decision to sacrifice what he had at Wednesday to throw himself in to the lions den and risk himself at the highest level all be it without the necessary tools he needs to survive.
Bruce is a brave man for taking on the challenge, but I fear his bravery will turn to regret when he realises what life at Newcastle is really about under the Mike Ashley regime.
I’m sure it won’t be very long indeed until odds are already taken on his successor?