Steve Bruce has received a lot of abuse from Sunderland fans in recent weeks. As a fan myself, it has been embarrassing. Steve Bruce is not a wanker, or a big-headed twat, or any of those things we’ve heard him called this past few weeks. Far from it. I’d go as far as saying he isn’t clueless either.
The man player under Sir Alex Ferguson and has been a relatively consistent manager, most of his career.
His teams are not going to set the Premier League alight, and he isn’t going to win anything. But Bruce has the ability to pick up results and keep teams safe.
At Wigan, that was fantastic. Staying in the Premier League was all that people cared about. They don’t have a big fan base, and probably never will. It is a rugby town.
The problem with Bruce is that he was never going to be a success at Sunderland. He isn’t the type of manager the fans need. Supporters loved him to bits when he did exactly what we needed and kept Sunderland in the Premier League. But now, the fans want more.
I won’t defend Bruce too much, as I have never really liked him as a manager. I think he has a very negative style of play, and he is a little old fashioned for me. But it is important to remember that is just my opinion.
Bruce has his philosophy and way of doing things, it is his opinion. We need to remember he is one of only 20 men in the world who manage a Premier League team. And he has done it for a while now. He has earned the right to do it his way.
As a group of fans, and this goes for Blackburn fans as well, we need to think about what we are doing. Football is a business. Sunderland owner Ellis Short does not want a ground full of people shouting profanities. Those people will not get to him. In the same way they will not get to Bruce or Steve Keen.
Fans need to stop reacting to events, think about what is causing them and discuss it. Being nice and polite about things gets you everywhere in life. So I asked myself, just what is the problem at Sunderland?
Sunderland are not going to get into Europe. They should be sitting around eighth place, somewhere near Everton, Aston Villa and Newcastle. They should be well away from any relegation trouble, but not really challenging for Europe.
Fans need to accept this. That is the best they can realistically hope for.
The reason I don’t like Bruce as a manager is not because I feel he can’t do that. It’s that I don’t think I could enjoy watching him do that. I think that is all we really want, to enjoy watching football.
I remember last season, probably my favourite game was Sunderland versus Blackpool at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland lost, but it was a great game. Both teams played well, but Blackpool came out with the win from an open and exciting game. The problem at Sunderland is that kind of game is becoming very rare.
The tactics and style of play Bruce uses have not changed at all during his time at the club. The only thing that has changed is the ability to score goals. Sunderland still show signs of scoring, they just don’t have a player capable of finishing chances regularly.
When the team defended well and nicked a goal, everything was great: a one-all draw with Arsenal here, a last-minute win against Manchester City there. It was met with huge optimism. But the football was not great.
It was the same football Sunderland fans are watching now. Four slow defenders, and two very defensive central midfielders blocking everything they can.
The whole of Sunderland seems to have turned on Bruce, but why now? He should have gone after a season; his approach has not changed since then. Anyone who watches football for what it is can see that.
As a fan of football, as well as Sunderland, I grew up never expecting Sunderland to play in Europe or win the League. I grew up hoping, but not expecting. To this day that remains.
I expect Sunderland, with the Stadium of Light, a lot of support and a very rich owner, to be a safe bet in the Premier League. Finishing eighth, ninth or tenth is fine by me and most other fans. The reason I want to see Bruce out, and the reason I have for a long time, is simple.
I want to enjoy watching Sunderland again.
Even when the team have been in a great league position in the last two years, before the now-nnual losing streak, I couldn’t enjoy watching Sunderland play. Yes, at the game I jumped around and celebrated like everyone else, I enjoyed that.
But an hour after the game, looking back, I consistently found myself thinking, “Actually, that was rubbish.”
In both his seasons as manager, Steve Bruce, and we as fans, have endured long streaks of terrible performances where we couldn’t buy a win. Yet by the end of the season, the majority of fans sang the praises of Bruce.
Why are things suddenly so different now?
The main difference is that the annual losing streak, where things don’t go the way of Sunderland or Steve Bruce, is happening early. In previous seasons, a good start and decent finish have disguised a poor period.
This time that isn’t the case. But what happens if things turn around? If Sunderland have a good run over Christmas, and finish, say 11th in the league, does that make things alright again?
I sincerely hope not. Sunderland need Steve Bruce to step aside. He can’t take the club any further. He just isn’t that type of manager. That isn’t his fault, and it certainly doesn’t warrant any abuse.
What I would love to see is a manager who can provide fans with some entertainment. I want football I can go and enjoy. I want to get up on a Saturday and think, “We can win this,” rather than, “I wonder if we can nick a goal and win today.”
Steve Bruce hasn’t changed, and as a result my opinion hasn’t changed. People defended him when we went on bad runs before. Those people need to defend him again instead of jumping on a bandwagon.
There should be two clear camps—scrappy, defensive football and mid-table, or enjoyable and attacking football with mid-table. No prizes for guessing which is pro-Bruce and which is not.