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Bent exit halted Bruce's progress

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Phil McNulty | 23:12 UK time, Wednesday, 30 November 2011

When Sunderland chairman Ellis Short was approached by a disgruntled supporter on his way out of The Stadium of Light after Saturday’s defeat to Wigan Athletic, feelings were mutual.

“We’re not happy” announced the fan, who was met with a brisk response from the American billionaire as he said: “And do you think I am?”

If Sunderland manager Steve Bruce feared his tenure on Wearside was in deep trouble, that simple message from the man who took a more hands-on role at his club in October will have confirmed it.

Short’s unhappiness led him to sack Bruce on Wednesday night and complete a remarkable fall from grace after the promise of his early work at Sunderland.


After a string of poor results Sunderland chairman Ellis Short calls time on Steve Bruce's (pic) tenure at the Stadium of Light. PHOTO: Getty

Bruce’s plan for Sunderland was progressing perfectly at the turn of the year – sixth in the Premier League and harbouring genuine hopes of bringing European football back to Wearside.

Three wins and a draw at the start of 2011 only added to the optimism. Then, in the time it took Aston Villa to turn leading scorer Darren Bent’s head and conclude a club record £24m deal, Bruce saw it all turn to dust.

He was badly hurt at the manner of Bent’s departure, reserving most of his anger for then Villa manager Gerard Houllier for failing to register his interest via a phone call.

He also knew that the departure of a goalscorer of Bent’s calibre would not only rob Sunderland of their cutting edge, but also a player whose pace was pivotal to their style.

If there was a defining day in Bruce’s time at The Stadium of Light, it was the day Bent left for Villa.

The momentum Bruce had carefully built up since his arrival from Wigan in the summer of 2009 came to a halt.

Sunderland went into an almost instant decline that brought eight defeats in nine games and the threat of relegation until a late recovery earned a respectable 10th place.

Bruce spent his summer effectively starting again by making 10 new signings, including former Manchester United old boys John O’Shea and Wes Brown along with Ipswich Town’s teenage striking prodigy Connor Wickham.

Sunderland lost Jordan Henderson to Liverpool then, more surprisingly, £13m record buy Asamoah Gyan when he joined United Arab Emirates side Al-Ain on a season-long loan.

He was unable to land his main target Charles N’Zogbia, who joined Aston Villa, but the scale of Bruce’s reinvestment was regarded as a generous gesture of faith from Short.

Fatally for Bruce, the malaise of last season carried over into this and only two wins from Sunderland's first 13 games sealed his fate, the final blow being dealt with Wigan’s last-minute winner at the Stadium of Light on Saturday that unleashed a torrent of supporters’ venom in the direction of the manager.

Bruce’s Tyneside roots were revisited among the criticism and it was perhaps inevitable that the boyhood Newcastle United fan would be cut little slack when things went wrong.

The failure of Bruce’s signings to make a significant impact did not help his cause.

Wickham showed promise before getting injured, but O’Shea and Brown have not come off while Craig Gardner has shown no signs of justifying the £5m paid to Birmingham City in the summer.

Attempts to replace Bent’s goals have failed, with loan signings Nicklas Bendtner and South Korean Ji Dong-Won unable to provide a threat.

Short’s decision to assume the role of chairman as Bruce’s closest ally Niall Quinn was handed an “international development” brief was seen as an ominous sign for the manager.

The Dallas-based businessman was keen to support Bruce, but results and the toxic terrace reaction on Saturday finally forced his hand.

Former Sunderland defender Michael Gray told BBC Sport he sympathised with the sacked Bruce but the brutal reality of bad results left Short in a position where he had to act.

He said: "Wigan were not in the best of form themselves and as a manager, with the players Sunderland have brought in, these are the type of games Steve needed to be winning.

“I wasn’t at the game on Saturday but I heard the abuse aimed at Steve was getting a little bit too personal. It’s OK to shout at the team when things aren’t going too well but sometimes it can go a bit too far.”

But Gray added: “I think you actually have to give the board a lot of credit because they backed Steve in the summer when he brought in 10 new players but they still haven’t replaced Darren Bent and then they let Asamoah Gyan go, which was a big surprise. He had plenty of time to bring in the players he wanted.

“They have gone through the gelling together period. We are 13 games into the new Premier League season and expectations were probably for a place in the top 10. We know managers live or die by results and Steve hasn’t been getting them.

“It’s probably fair to say that things have gone downhill since Darren Bent left. They were in a fantastic position in the top six playing entertaining football and everyone, including myself, was talking about European football.

“Darren Bent then left the football club and we went into a decline losing eight games out of nine. We could barely buy a point let alone a win.

“We scraped it back together and finished 10th, but maybe that papered over the cracks. Sunderland started this season with a new squad but it is all about results and they have not been coming.

"Steve will be the first to admit he knew he had to get results and he hasn’t been getting good ones often enough. The writing was on the wall after the Wigan game – and losing from a winning position in the manner they did only made things worse.”

Now Short and Sunderland’s board must seek out Bruce’s successor with the offer of untapped potential, an impressive stadium waiting to be filled and the opportunity to fire the passions of a fervent football region.

Martin O’Neill and Mark Hughes are predictable front-runners – but can Short pull together a package to tempt them to the North East?

Bruce tried and failed to revive Sunderland. And, when he looks back on his time at The Stadium of Light, he may reflect on Bent’s departure to Aston Villa as the day his dreams died.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Steve Bruce has done at Sunderland what he has done at every club he has managed (and there is no shortage of those) - he has under-achieved. He is able to display some modest progress in his first few months in any job, but whenever he has been asked to go to the next stage he has ALWAYS failed. No doubt he will get another crack at it somewhere else, but the ultimate job that he has craved for so long - England Manager - is as far in the distance now as it ever has been. As an England supporter I have to say that I am mightily relieved by that, because I believe that he would be an even bigger disaster than Steve McLaren or Graham Taylor, if the FA were ever foolish enough to give him the job.
    Bruce should settle down at a "comfortable" club with limited ambition, so that he is never again asked to guide a club to heights which it seems will always remain just out of his ability range.

  • Comment number 2.

    Funny enough I met him in a night club the other week when they lost to United (courtest of Wes Brown :). I got the feeling he was feeling the heat big time even then. Too many changes in the summer without time to gel before the important games. Too many high calibre players sold or lost (Bent, Welbeck, Gyan). That's too many potential goals to ship without it affecting performance.

  • Comment number 3.

    The enigma that is Steve Bruce. Can't say I'm too surprised at this, Sunderland have been shocking. Looked impotent up front and amateurish at the back. I would argue Bent and Gyan helped cover over some big cracks, that limp midfield and that horrific defence, this despite the signing of bramble and Turner, their respective teams defensive lynchpins and 2 Manchester United veterans. Forgetting Stam for a minute I think it's clear SAF knows when to get rid of players

    Okay, you can point towards losing Bent and Gyan, but at the same time, sorry to break it to you, but Sunderland are not a big club, and these players knew that their ambitions would be better served elsewhere-Bruce himself should know plenty about that in any case, it's been the story of his managerial career to date!

    Look at his comments on Saturday, surprised more wasn't made of this "I've never walked out of a challenge before". What made it all the more ironic for me was this comment coming after a game against Wigan-the club he himself abandoned when a bigger offer came calling, months after moping about Palacios' lack of loyalty, and then proceeds to go and poach half their team!

    I'd argue that the writing on the wall for Bruce was that 5-0 mauling at the hands of Newcastle last season. I was at that game ironically watching it with my geordie mate having secured us tickets supporting mate and I couldn't believe how poor Sunderland were. For a Sunderland crowd already unconvinced by his Geordie connections I think that really was the beginning of the end, they hobbled through the remaineder of that season and spent the summer bringing in a host of players who may have looked good on paper but really didn't come to all that much

    Take Bendtner, he's a good luxury player for a club like Arsenal who can afford to have him, but I think it's painfully clear that whatever delusions he may have about his own ability, the simple truth is that he will never be good enough to play as the main striker in a team

    This won't be the end of Steve Bruce though. I think we could well see him take the reins at one of the Lancashire clubs before the season's up, both are in complete freefall

  • Comment number 4.

    Asamoah Gyan really let Bruce down. The timing of his unusual decision to go and play in the Emirates couldn't have been worse, leaving Bruce without a player who would surely have chipped in with 10 or more goals (alas he was tempted away by the world class standard of football in the UAE... Or perhaps money). Had Bruce been given more time and perhaps a bit of money to spend in January I'm sure he'd have turned things around.. Unfortunately time is a rare luxury in the football management game.

  • Comment number 5.

    Why replace like for like. Saking bruce and replacing him with Hughes or O'Neil, when they employ very similar tactics and limited knowledge outside British leagues, is pointlesss and wouldnt progress Sunderland at all.

    He should look at managers like Rafa, (Despite his media critics, has won everything in club football) or take a punt at lower league like Everton did with Moyes.

    Dont just give jobs to the boys, interview candidates, ask about tactics, probe into knowledge.

    I have no idea how managers like Hughes manage to find clubs in top flight when he hasnt done anything to show he is capable of propelling teams.

    Mcliesh relegated BCFC twice with investment and ends ups still at a PL team, how and why.

  • Comment number 6.

    Darren Bent was the lynchpin and when he left everything fell apart.

  • Comment number 7.

    Mark Hughes stabilised a declining blackburn team and pushed them towards european football. Mark Hughes also did a decent job at Man City;Hughes is a good manager. Hughes is a good man manager and gets teams playing as a team.
    Mark Hughes would be an excellent replacement for steve bruce

  • Comment number 8.

    I have to disagree with some of the rubbish that has been posted about this article. Clearly you don't need a qualification in football management to strike the keyboard and write drivel. Shame.

  • Comment number 9.

    For years I have had no idea how Steve Bruce has been considered a good manager! His sacking now confirms my thoughts.
    For some reason, I guess his connection with Man Utd and Alex Ferguson has convinced club owners that he would be great for their team.
    But no! He has taken good teams, performing well to depths well below where those squads should be and he has every excuse ready - young team, injuries, pariahs, leeches, money grabbers, desire - well, short response to all that is that he is the manager and he should be the person driving the squad and pushing them to the team goal.
    One other thing I have noticed - I have never seen a current Steve Bruce player defend him?!>?!!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    I wasn't surprised about Asamoah Gyan moving to the UAE. All football players want to improve themselves and, let's face it, Al-Ain are step up in class from Sunderland, who are practically a pub team.

  • Comment number 11.

    Poor Stene Bruce. His face has been as red as a strawberry for weeks now. The North Easterners are very harsh when it comes to having a poor football team. Steve, go put your blue shirt, with the white collar, on and then go bleach your barnet, cheer yourself up. I'm sure you got a good handshake for your efforts at Sunderland, go enjoy it, you'll be forgotten in Sunderland in 1 week, when they appoint a new manager. And then everyone will be happy.

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't think it was the right decision. Bruce has lost Bent and Gyan, his two best signings, both outside his control. Realistically the height of Sunderland's ambitions is upper-mid table with the top 6 being predictable and Newcastle having such a good season and looking likely to take a spot in the top 7.

    The right time to sack Bruce would have been if Sunderland were seriously in danger of relegation halfway through the season. We are only a third of the way through the season and Sunderland despite their poor form do not look like going down, as there are worse teams below them. A manager needs time to rebuild a squad in Bruce's position.

  • Comment number 13.

    Poor attempt at annoying everyone Soul Patch...even by your standards. He's not the greatest manager in the world. Any club aspiring to be a top 7/8 team shouldn't hire him, but he does a decent job, stabilising teams and he's had some awful luck at sunderland, so can't be too harsh on him. Did a decent job at wigan and birmingham so if i was newly promoted club looking for a manager, he'd be your man.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think Gyan's move to the UAE just goes to show that too many football players today are only interested in money and not football.

  • Comment number 15.

    No surprise here, it was always going to be a 'two year max' marriage in my book anyway. I don't really see Sunderland as anything other than a flip-flop between Premier & Championship club anyway and to remain in the former they'd need a man of some inspiration at the helm, Steve Bruce is anything but that to my way of thinking and I was amazed at the short sightedness of his appointment in the first place. I don't mean to sound horrid towards the bloke but he's wet.
    Sunderland need a touch of luck in the next appointment and whilst I agree with some on here that giving the job to "one of the boys" might seem a bit obvious and safe surely a manager of O'Neil's previous exploits would seem to be sufficient to guarantee Premiership survival, surely Sunderland would be wise to snap his services up.
    Whilst I'm not tipping the man for the Sunderland job in particular, it's always surprised me that Alan Curbishley has never had another role after leaving West Ham when they were 5th or 6th in the Prem, that and his admirable achievements at Charlton are surley worth more then unemployment whilst managers like Steve Bruce are out of one door and straight through the next.
    Steve Bruce will get the Blackburn job next, or back to Wigan, no wait, I can see it now, Norwich at the foot of the table after a bad run through xmas and new year, the prodigal son Steve Bruce returns home.

  • Comment number 16.

    I remember thinking "oh dear" when Steve Bruce was announced as manager, "this is going to end in tears"... Rightly or wrongly my perception was that he was one of the several managers that seem to bounce around the clubs at the bottom of the premier.

    He has surprised me with his candor and personality but there's no premier league points for that.

    You seem like a nice man Mr Bruce and I hope you find somewhere that you can do better than the 29.59% win ratio you managed with Sunderland.

    There are not many in the squad who's performance, attitude and effort they should be proud of. Hopefully the new manager will look at the stats of the games and see in writing what seems so obvious to view on TV week after week.

    I hope Martin O'neill can be persuaded to take the job, the commute from Birmingham is not too bad! Mark Hughes appointment, although he seems keener to get back to management, will just end up back in the same place two years from now.

    Their relative performance numbers make the choice a no brainer;
    Steve Bruce - career 36.54%
    last club:29.59% Sunderland
    career best:37.04% Birmingham

    Mark Hughes - career 41.09%
    last club:32.56% Fulham
    career best:46.75 Man City

    Martin O'Neill - career 53.08%
    last club: 42.11% Aston Villa
    career best:75.53% Celtic; 3 League Titles, 3 Domestic Cups, League Cup

  • Comment number 17.

    The unfortunate part is that despite the fact that we have come so far in the season without a sacking, there are probably 6-7 managers right now who are a short losing streak away from losing their jobs.

    I think it's naive to suggest that Bent's departure was the cause of Bruce's demise. My God, I'd certainly hate for me legacy to be determined by a player with so little talent as Bent.

    I think a lot of it has to do with American ownership who become ruthless when results don't go as planned and when the balance sheet isn't showing a decent ROI. Those empty seats in the stadium have to cause Short some heartache.

    In the final analysis, Bruce just ran out of time and options. Sunderland are an average team with little talent to fall back on. No different to half the teams in the Premier League

  • Comment number 18.

    Almost every time I have seen Bruce in an interview he showers praise over ManU and their manager. In fact, it is embarassing the way he does it. The man is so in love with ManU that he solves their problems by helping them offload their deadwodd. Maybe he has been living off the 'favour back' from Fergie and ManU connections to keep him in his job. But even they cannot help a manager who signs the mighty no. 52 Bendtner to do it for him.
    Bruce is a poor manager, and management is the one job where you will be found out in front of a world wide audience - an extreme version of x-factor..

  • Comment number 19.

    A big loss for Man United in so many ways.

  • Comment number 20.

    @ 16

    Although I think MON would be the best of the bunch his win percentage is massively boosted by being in a league where only 2 teams ever compete. Think it is an unfair stat to use.

    If Bruce or Hughes had managed in such a poorly competed league as well then you could compare them but they haven't so it is slightly unfair.

    I'm sure if you looked at the stats of recent managers of Barca or Real in La Liga they would compare to MONs because the leagues are so similar. Obviously the quality of Barca and Real is much higher but the general standard of the rest of the teams is so poor that its not even comparitive to such "sizzling" leagues like Bundesliga or EPL.

    I think Bruce will always do ok at most clubs he manages but will never be at a "big" club.

    I do think he has been unlucky at sunderland though with losing Bent and Gyan. but then he has made some really poor signings as well. Brown and O'shea were never going to be the players to push you on and achieve progression.

    @ 18

    I like your comparison to x-factor, shame we can't vote managers or players in/out of our clubs hey?!

  • Comment number 21.

    I have have learned to like Steve Bruce, rarely made excuses when his team lost and anyone knows that the sharp end (the strikers) make or break you as a manager. With Bent sold and Gyan apparently looking after his pocket in the middle east, Bruce was left short of quality up front. The new managers suggested, Hughes is a tactic free zone, he is negative and his teams do not play attractively, Martin O'Neill just the same, negative back to front style of play. Call steve Bruce what you like, but he did try and get his teams to play, be prepared for a non attractive football environment with the other two, what ever the results.

  • Comment number 22.

    No doubt Steve Bruce gives likeable soundbite, but he is not the type of manager who take take a middling PL club and make them over-achieve. The contrast with Newcastle was always going to be stark considering the way Pardew has them playing. To blame it all on Darren Bent's departure seems disingenuous. Good management these days includes motivating these overpaid superstars and investing cash wisely when they go. It may seem harsh, but better players than Bent have changed hands for less than Villa paid for him in the last year. Blaming the fact that it's the North East is an obvious and - ultimately - boring response. Sunderland have made the right decision. I hope they employ an up and coming manager with experience of the lower divisions rather than looking for another 'buggins turn' PL managerial stalwart. Also any middle-sized club wanting to employ Mark Hughes needs to look at what happened to Fulham.

  • Comment number 23.

    "« Previous | Main
    New boss must make Sunderland more ruthless

    Post categories: Football, football tactics
    Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 23:26 UK time, Wednesday, 30 November 2011
    Thirteen games into last season, Sunderland were sixth in the Premier League table and riding high following a 3-0 victory at Chelsea.

    After the same number of games this term, it is a starkly different picture. The Black Cats are fifth from bottom following their injury-time defeat by fellow strugglers Wigan last Saturday, and it was enough for manager Steve Bruce to be sacked after what owner Ellis Short called a "trying start to the season".

    Results were not good enough, Short said. But the strange thing is that when you analyse many of Sunderland's performances this season, they have not been playing that badly.

    They have scored the same number of goals in the same period, despite losing strikers Darren Bent, Asamoah Gyan, and the on-loan Danny Welbeck in the last year."

    Taken from -

    Makes this blog largely irrelevant, dont you speak to your colleagues ?

  • Comment number 24.

    Urgh, apologies for that, something weird happened.

    Anyway, the point remains, if they have scored the same number of goals, then this blog is useless

  • Comment number 25.

    Villas-Boas to Sunderland, Bruce to take the England job, Steve Kean to Chelsea and Steve McClaren to take over at Blackburn.

    There, problem solved.

  • Comment number 26.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 27.

    Decent bloke or not. Bruce was rubbish.

    Surprised Sunderland kept him as long as they did.

    They have the money to appoint a better manager than him.

  • Comment number 28.

    One of those rare exits where you're actually fully in agreement with the board.

    Bruce bought in poorly, had poor results and displayed poor/negative tactics too often. That's a combination that's hard to ignore.

  • Comment number 29.

    Totally agree.. Bent's departure is a factor . But there is no denying that Bruce put his heart and soul to win matches and was extremely honest and dedicated manager. All the best Bruce wherever you go.

  • Comment number 30.

    I wasn't surprised about Asamoah Gyan moving to the UAE. All football players want to improve themselves and, let's face it, Al-Ain are step up in class from Sunderland, who are practically a pub team

    you've outdone yourself there pitchy patchy. have a word with yourself.

  • Comment number 31.

    Historically it seems Bruce's teams start well - he unites them and sets up a good system, but after a couple of years it seems to fall apart. The loss of Bent, for me, accellerated the decline

  • Comment number 32.

    Take a step-back, way back to Peter Reid, when he convinced the Chairman that he'd be better served by playing a pre-season tour to Holland rather than play Inter-Toto Cup football - that to me is when the malaise set in - he thought that he could throw away a chance for UEFA Cup football, when SAFC hadn't been in Europe ever, and qualify directly for the UEFA Cup via the PL - result sacked, Wilkinson in, more money spent, then McCarthy and Keane with more money spent. If Reid had have taken a chance, got into Europe and possibly done well in UEFA Cup then you never know how it'd have ended up.

  • Comment number 33.

    No English manager has won the EPL and I can’t think of one who has even finished in the top 3. No English manager has won the CL.

    You need to take a serious look at the mindset of those in the establishment of the English game to see why this is. It is also why England cannot produce any descent players with the “a good big ‘un is better than a good little ‘un” and the “get rid of the ball as quick as possible” mentality.

    Bruce is one of the best English managers at the moment and his likely replacements are an Irishman and a Welshman. That says a lot.

  • Comment number 34.

    I've only seen them once live this season and of course on the box.

    I understand Phil's blog and the emphasis placed on Bent's departure but it's more than that. The quality has been removed and replaced by inferior players for key areas on the pitch. They are lacking leadership, the players look like they have ended up at a place where they don't want to be.

    I don't know what Sunderland expect when they continue to employ the 'hover manager' who operates between the lower EPL and Championship.

  • Comment number 35.

    I'd be surprised if MON or Mark Hughes wanted the job, both seem tired of mid-table sides and are loooking to step up to a team that can challenge, my moneys on Steve Mclaren

  • Comment number 36.

    Sunderland were paying Gyan £20000/week, when the average wage structure for premiership strikers is £40000/week and they were expecting him to turn up every week and score. I'm sorry, but slavery finished 400 years ago and if Sunderland were able to double his wages like what the likes of WBA did to Odemwinge, then I am sure Gyan would not have walked away to UAE to secure his future. He had players like Muntari, who have played well in the past at Portsmouth on loan, although he wasn't great during that period, he could have easily filled the gap that Henderson left in the summer. He ignored him and signed mediocre players that can't lace Muntari's boots. Bruce failed, because he lacked the vision to buy creative players...

  • Comment number 37.

    I think Bruce tends to get an easy ride from the media because he was Man Utd captain and his much talked of love for the reds.
    Case in point the departure of Gyan, yes he may have gone for the money but Bruce could have said sorry mate, you have to stay until January at least because its too late in the day to replace you, Spurs did it with Modric, but reading between the lines Bruce couldnt stand the thought of facing someone so shallow on a daily basis, big mistake and a big weakness for Bruce, he should have done what his hero Ferguson did with Rooney and Ronaldo, been pragmatic and smiled through gritted teeth and got rid when it best suited Sunderland.
    TBH he didnt seem to fussed when it was obvious he was going after Saturday, a big severance pay cheque and straight back on the pundit circuit.

  • Comment number 38.


    You can't call call sunderland a pub team then lump "al ain" in the same bracket. They don't have pubs in UAE but they certainly are in the pub bracket.
    To the person that had the win records, saying o'neill is best target for sunderland because he had a 75% win record at celtic. Please use like for like. All other were in prem, gordon strachan had a good record with celtic!!

  • Comment number 39.

    Steve Bruce is just not a very good manager.His error at Sunderland was in buying up United has beens and never going to bes.When you leave United its a downward move,players who do it do so with a heavy heart and one eye on money with the chance of glory removed by the transfer.It shows.Last years sale of Bent was no help of course but Bruce got the money to spend,he just didn't spend it very well. When your best player is probably Lee Cattermole you are in trouble. As for who is next,if Hughes goes in it will be more of the same. Id go for somebody with potential,somebody for whom the job would represent the culmination of his dreams not somebody who will view the job as a stepping stone to something else. Nigel Clough has an affinity if no direct involvement with the club. He's done well at Derby with one and sometimes two hands tied behind his back. He'd be a good choice but I expect a higher profile appointment to be honest.

  • Comment number 40.

    Take a step-back, way back to Peter Reid, when he convinced the Chairman that he'd be better served by playing a pre-season tour to Holland rather than play Inter-Toto Cup football - that to me is when the malaise set in - he thought that he could throw away a chance for UEFA Cup football, when SAFC hadn't been in Europe ever, and qualify directly for the UEFA Cup via the PL - result sacked, Wilkinson in, more money spent, then McCarthy and Keane with more money spent. If Reid had have taken a chance, got into Europe and possibly done well in UEFA Cup then you never know how it'd have ended up

    dunno i remember United playing Sunderland, who were top of the league at the time, Nicky Butt scored a fortunate goal in the late stages to deny Sunderland a win, and the slide started from there.

  • Comment number 41.

    #33 "No English manager has won the EPL and I can’t think of one who has even finished in the top 3. No English manager has won the CL."

    Sir Bobby Robson finished in the top 3 with Newcastle Utd in 2002-2003. Kevin Keegan finished 2nd with Newcastle in 1995-1996.

  • Comment number 42.

    Being a Birmingham City fan i know what Steve Bruce is all about. Tactically he is very good defensively and alot of teams talks went something like this.
    " Come on lads work your socks off and lets hope we get the rub of the green"

    He is a great guy, i think the players like he builds a great ethic but is a very basic manager.

    Always chopping and changing his team and buys the wrong players.

    But saying that Sunderland shouldnt sack him, he will be a mid table manager as long as he gets the right players.

    Sunderland like Birmingham lack fire power, and i wouldnt say it was because Bent left that Sunderland slumped, it was more to do with the Gyann wanting to fill his pockets even more and also because he was slowly getting found out in the Prem, so he took the easy option, fair play to him, but i think he should have been banned from playing football for year for leaving a club who paid millions for him in the lerch.

    Steve Bruce, great bloke, very average manager, spends far to much money on the wrong players, but i like to see him around and hope he finds another club soon.

  • Comment number 43.

    Phil McNulty is spot on with this blog, Bruce had sunderland developing into european contenders. They were balanced in midfield, and had potency up front. He's lost their most creative player (henderson) this season, and replaced with gardner who's not in the same class. Has tried to shore up defence with brown and o'shea who haven't done it just yet. And he's lost his front two strikers (gyan and bent).
    let's be honest, how would arsenal do if they lost RVP along with fabregas and nasri? or Utd if they lost rooney & nani etc. Granted Bruce has been backed and has spent, but he's been fairly unlucky. Mark Hughes would be another utd old boy that would be an excellent fit.

  • Comment number 44.

    Ebe Brown, quite a shocking comparison but I can see the parallels with Gyan only being paid 20,000 a week. How could he be expected to live on that!? It's an insult to him and frankly when he signed that contract he was thinking of something else and can't be blamed.

  • Comment number 45.

    If the appoint Mark Hughes they have a good chance of being a stable Prem club!

    Why look further.

    Soul is still trolling on with his Anti English slurrs again, so nothing has changed there.

    Talk about repetitive boring, my God :)

  • Comment number 46.


    ".. “get rid of the ball as quick as possible” mentality .. "

    I think you need to qualify this statement a little bit more, after all, getting rid of the ball quickly is exactly how teams like Barcelona play - they just "get rid of the ball" to a team-mate who often is standing very close by. The movement of the ball is essential to the game, of course. If statements like this are not qualified further in some way, then the malaise of a team who thumps the ball upfield may turn to a team who try to dribble everywhere and everywhen, getting caught in possession and losing that way.

    I shall assume that you wish teams, in particular England, to move away from a long ball based game to that of possession (which implies team possession, rather than individual possession). In which case, I agree to some extent but it must be recognised that teams and, hence, players must learn when to play the right ball - occasionally there are times when a 60 yard cross-field pass is absolutely the right thing to do, may be not as often as a 10 yard square pass but still occasionally. It is that mentality that I would like to see coached at all levels. As an example, I would argue that Germany's first goal against England in the last World Cup was the epitome of the "long-ball" and yet Germany were generally applauded for having a superb tournament with exciting entertaining football.

    Back to Bruce, however, it is interesting statistics that Jesus the Teddy Bear points us to. One could extrapolate then that it was not the loss of strikeforce but the loss of coherent defending that cost Bruce his job. A shame, in my opinion, that he was sacked, I thought that taking Sunderland to 10th represented some progress but results this term suggest otherwise.

    I am not one who buys into the "attactive football v ugly football" argument. The professional game is a results driven process now and I refuse to believe that fans of a team winning a lot with "ugly" football would complain in general. Everybody liks to follow a winning team (which may partly explain why teams near the top of League 2 often have more fans in the ground than those teams near the bottom of League 1, for example.

    As an aside, why is it that "underperforming" managers are sacked far more often than "underperforming" players?

  • Comment number 47.

    Sunderland should avoid Man U rejects at all costs.

    They only have one club they care about and it wouldnt be Sunderland.

    Shhhhteve Mclaren or Phil Brown I would say lol

  • Comment number 48.

    #33 Bobby Robson @ Newcastle - 3rd place

    in fact your whole post is pointless and not worth the 5 seconds it takes to read it.

  • Comment number 49.

    Utd will be very disappointed that they will no longer get their annual 6 points gift from sunderland.

    Jokes aside I agree with a lot of the good folks on here that there is no point in making Hughes the manager as it just continues with the same trend of ok managers.

    Why not give a chance to someone new, a lot of these managers like bruce, hughes, Mcleish etc just swap clubs but never really achieve anything.

  • Comment number 50.

    There is no way that losing a striker like Darren Bent should leave you in trouble. This is a manager with plenty of experience who has worked with greater financial constraints than he has now, so the departure of a reasonable striker shouldn't be a massive headache.

    My opinion is that whilst he seems like a decent bloke, the type you could go for a pint with, he just doesn't cut it with regards to tactics or identifying future players. Simply having played under a good manager does not make you a good manager.

    Sunderland have a great stadium and a good fan base, but they are not a big team. Whilst they should have aspirations of winning things, it certainly isn't going to happen any time soon. With that in mind why am I reading that managers like Hiddink are being linked with the job? What a joke!! Mark Hughes may take the job (although I think he has the same delusions as Sunderland supporters), but I'd imagine even Martin O'Neil would hesitate about taking on a nothing job like this.

  • Comment number 51.

    oops Shhhhhhteve McLaren is a Man U reject....

  • Comment number 52.

    Most PL players seem to think they are bigger than the team. Very few PL managers can convince these players that if the team is doing well then they will be big too. Most cannot get the better of the players who aren't prepared to die for their team every match. Once upon a time JohnTerry was prepared to do that and Chelsea were a good team. Now he seems to act as if he is the manager and Chelsea isn't so good. The PL is littered with players like him and very few managers can get the better of them. Steve Bruce wasn't one of them.

  • Comment number 53.

    Bruce cut his managerial teeth at Huddersfield Town and one interesting comparison with this story is the pivotal moment when he was forced to sell Marcus Stewart. Form that point onward the results all fell apart and we went form very likely premiership material to the usual ordinary football league side. Sounds a bit like the Darren Bent situation here - you would have though that he might learn from the past.

  • Comment number 54.

    @41.At 09:33 1st Dec 2011, MancMag wrote:

    "Sir Bobby Robson finished in the top 3 with Newcastle Utd in 2002-2003. Kevin Keegan finished 2nd with Newcastle in 1995-1996."

    It doesn’t get away from the face that there is hardly a plethora of top quality English managers around at the moment.

  • Comment number 55.

    Decent enough bloke but a very, very average manager. Hughes is cut from the same mold. Losing 2 players doesn't send a team into free fall, it's a bit more complicated than that - doh! Like someone else said earlier, why not go for Rafa?

  • Comment number 56.

    @3 If you were at the 5-0 mauling last year I would be highly surprised as the score was 5-1 (and we ended with 10 men). You must not have been watching very carefully eh??? :)

    The defence no longer includes Bramble as he is off to court and not being played - Turner has never had any pace but is solid and reliable. O'Shea has been solid since arriving although Brown has made a few individual mistakes. Both the defence and midfield have improved under Bruce's tenure. The issues have been caused by disruption in the striker positions, new players gelling and a failure to get a "team" rather than a group of individuals on matchdays. This has been highlighted by too much on-field bickering amongst players (especially in defence).

    With strikers leaving, the main disappointment for fans was the failure to find proven quality players to bring in - there was a gamble bringing in young talent to bed in whilst Gyan covered until the return of Campbell from injury - unfortunately when Gyan left a very quick replacement needed to be found (Bendtner on loan). Everyone fully expected more proven strikers to be bought in the January transfer window but at the rate we were going January would be too late.

    All in all Bruce has been unlucky. He has brought good players in who have failed to deliver but has also lost good players from the club (although not his fault - money-grabbers come and go). He is a reasonable manager and a likeable guy but a change is needed to try to turn things around. I think he will be back in work swiftly and I personally would like to thank him for the improvements he has made during his tenure.

  • Comment number 57.

    "face" - should be "fact".

  • Comment number 58.

    I do not think its either a fair or a wise decision. Sunderland can shop but they will not get anyone better. If ever there is ever an alchemy on the cards, it has to be Bruce with Bruce's deft hand. Bent was a very hard blow.

  • Comment number 59.

    Such a shame! He was doing such a good job as well! Agent Bruce together with agent Bramble bringing down the Mackem's from the inside. Ideal replacements are Graham Souness, Avram Grant or maybe Howard Wilkinson again?

  • Comment number 60.

    #33 Didn't Newcastle finish 3rd with Keegan and Bobby Robson?

  • Comment number 61.

    It's time the BBC stopped griping about Bent at Aston Villa, to point to that as Bruce's turning point is rubbish. Even an important player is only one player and there are plenty of others at Sunderland, most brought in by Steve Bruce, coached and picked by Steve Bruce. It's a team game and it is Steve Bruce's team that's failed.

    Nr 5, I'm beginning to see your point regarding Alex McLeish, though it is Randy Lerner who's picked him (and who picked Houllier - a shocking and appalling choice, predictably poor performance of the team though in a frighteningly short period, I expected it to take a year or two till Villa got into that much trouble - just lucky the health thing arose for Villa or he'd still be there). McLeish has already demonstrated he is not ambitious when it comes to going for points, his selections are worryingly defensive, leaving us vulnerable to too many draws and not enough victories or entertainment.

    Randy, if what I hear about O'Neil and Scot Parker is true, you really should have picked up the phone last Summer, buried the hatchet and brought O'Neil back. I agree with your policy of getting the deadwood out, like Beye and one or two other overpaid "squad at best" players, but you and O'Neil should have worked out a way forward as between you a compromise could have kept the ambition alive at Villa Park. I feel it is on the critical list at the moment and is years away from any level of recovery.

    If he's still available next Summer, you should get O'Neil back, hopefully you will both be older and wiser by then. And stop selling the very best players - do a Modric next time.

  • Comment number 62.


    On paper Rafa seems like a great appointment but, as Inter found out, he's a money-sapping black hole. He got lucky with Liverpool - they were ready to ship him out when an inspired Gerrard et al won him the champions league. £100 mil later and they still had nothing but a regularly injured Torres and a rapidly declining Stevie-G.

    He plays the same old tune when things arent going well..

  • Comment number 63.

    Get Rafa Benitez back to Premiership Im sure he will do good for you

  • Comment number 64.

    @61 Couldn't agree more about the BBC and Bent. If anything it was Gyan who dropped us in it with the timing of his move when he was being relied upon solely until Campbell returned. Still, at least he is getting extremely well for playing sunday league quality football :)

  • Comment number 65.

    I just feel bad that when a new manager will be appointed and if he gets a good start. He will be praised for developing the youngsters that bruce brought in and brought through. Sunderland needed time to develop again and play as a team.

  • Comment number 66.

    Is this simply a case of cheaper to change the manager than the playing staff?

    True, they are playing staff that he has brought together, but, the new man (or woman) will have the same to work with so what's the difference?

  • Comment number 67.

    I don't think Bruce could have done anything more to win the game against Wigan. A host of missed easy chances (they could have EASILY been 6 up in the first half), and then, because of pressure from the fans to get the winner they lost a goal on the counter.

    Fans are too fickle, although I will agree buying Wes Brown was possibly one of the biggest mistakes you could possible make! I can't believe some of the abuse Steve Kean is getting at Blackburn - The fans have been behind him from nearly the start of his job, but they don't realise that they are just increasing the pressure and making it harder to get results!

    I think his players have let Bruce down big time, especially Gyan (if they still had him in their team, they would be much higher in the league right now!)

  • Comment number 68.

    @ 62

    "he was lucky with liverpool" completely ignoring the success at valencia?? 2 la ligas in 3 seasons, plus uefa cup.
    "they were ready to ship him out when an inspired gerrard won the CL" - you mean xabi alonso and the other players, like dudek for his top saves, smicer etc. Then he proceeded to get liverpool in cl final again and an FA cup. Hardly a bad manager. To question his record at inter is pointless, moratti is worse than abramovich when it comes to managers!

  • Comment number 69.

    Nice chap, maybe too nice and self effacing. His natural style of speech is apologetic and not particularly motivational. Not good signs.
    Great leaders and managers are always demonstrative, assertive and confident. Bruce does not come across that way.
    The Maccams were always going to quickly turn on a Geordie when things started to go downhill regardless of whether this was of his making or not.

  • Comment number 70.

    Former Manchester United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz has declared his interest. Would gladly have him, hughes, MON or Rafa tbf.

  • Comment number 71.

    @ 67

    Yeah spot on in terms of fans! Tim Vickery wrote a piece before about how fickle brazil fans were and don't get behind their team if they are struggling. Same goes for a lot of premier fans. Sometimes players need to get booed to shake them up, but when you do it week in week out that can't do much to their confidence.

  • Comment number 72.

    "...harbouring genuine hopes of bringing European football back to Wearside." Get your facts right mate, Wearside has never seen European football, so how can they bring it back? Have you ever seen a mackem in Milan?

  • Comment number 73.

    "Attempts to replace Bent’s goals have failed..."

    Except that they haven't. They've scored the same number of goals as at this point last season. A fact pointed out in the article I read just above yours by your colleague Alistair Magowan. Lazy.

  • Comment number 74.


    I agree, but it is hard for the fans not to get frustrated week in week out when they have seen poor performances week in week out. Home form was the main key to the frustration for Sunderland fans as they had only seen 3 home wins in the last 11 months (the entire of 2011).

    The main problem was not showing their frustration but the manner in which a small proportion have done it (they have been relentlessly on the "Bruce out" trail without giving him a chance) and some fans went over the top with personal criticisms of Bruce after the Wigan game (no need for it).

  • Comment number 75.

    Bruce is a complete mercenary. Ask the fans of Huddersfield. Sheffield United, Crystal Palace, Birmingham and Wigan (TWICE) the Sunderland board have shown the same amount of loyalty to Mr Bruce as he showed to the other clubs he managed. Average manager, Average record- will probably get a job in the third tier of Engliah football as that appears to be the limit of his managerial abilities

  • Comment number 76.

    #73 MarkusVanBasten

    Ha, ha, brilliant! :-)

    Some journalists are so desperate to make a point for effect that the basics seem to desert them!

  • Comment number 77.

    #75 archicrooks

    Oh, I agree that players and managers may well be as bad as each other in the loyalty stakes.

    The question is though, has Bruce ever walked part way through a season and if so, what were the circumstances?

  • Comment number 78.

    Rafa Benitez, I doubt very much that he would take the job. To even consider it, the board would have to offer a package way beyond, what any of their previous managers had and I don't just mean his salary.

  • Comment number 79.

    I thought Steve bruce was doing a fantastic job at the Wearyside club, i find it disgusting that he hasnt had time to finsih the job he started and take this club to its rightful place in football...Still lets hope the next 'Icon' will follow Bruce's style and finish of his fantastic job....Steve bruce I salute you!!
    Another point in his blog phil states ''Bruce’s plan for Sunderland was progressing perfectly at the turn of the year – sixth in the Premier League and harbouring genuine hopes of bringing European football back to Wearside''

    Surely to bring european football back it has had to have been there at one point??? have i missed something???

  • Comment number 80.


    Didn't Bruce force his way out of Palace 3 months into the 01-02 season to go to Birmingham? I seem to remember Crystal Palace tried blocking it but in the end had to let him go.

  • Comment number 81.

    Any manager can complain about the loss of 1 or 2 players resulting in them being given the boot but isn't that what management is about ? being able to manage.

    I would expect the usual suspects to be in the running for the job but it would be great if they could 'poach' Moyes from Everton (as he is dissalusioned there) I think he would do an outstanding job for them as he does wonders with no money and i'm sure if given some funds by the chairman in january he could get them up and running.

    Failing that it would be good to look beyond the EPL and search in the lower tiers of English football and see who is/has been doing a decent job on limited resources and maybe go for them ( Clough/Jones/Clarke).

  • Comment number 82.

    #80 jardinuk

    I think you're quite right. Worse even:-

    'Bruce tendered his resignation less than three months into the season in order to return to Birmingham City as manager. Although he was initially prevented from doing so by an injunction taken out by Crystal Palace, he was eventually allowed to join the Midlands-based club after a compensation package was agreed. By now he had acquired a reputation as a manager who rarely held down a job for a significant length of time.'

  • Comment number 83.

    Yesterday was a bad day for Man United

  • Comment number 84.

    Mr Blueburns @77

    Bruce has walked more than once and left an unpleasant feeling. Remember the stink at Crystal Palace, they even tried to take out an injuction to stop him leaving halfway through the season.

    The Sheffield business, Birmingham as well, in the public domain and unpleasant.

  • Comment number 85.

    #81 jutty128

    I'd be astonished if Moyes was to leave Everton mid season.

  • Comment number 86.

    Maybe I am not allowed to comment when it comes to Sunderland being a Newcastle supporter. Anyway, I was getting frustrated listening to Steve Bruce and I'm the arch enemy.

    The bloke could never look at himself when it came to defeats. His range of excuses was ridiculous, to blaming Newcastle for doing well to referees guessing penalty decisions the correct way. Not once did he look at himself and take the blame for his complete tactical ineptitude. God knows how the Sunderland fans felt during post match interviews with him.

    As for the new boss, well I agree with the "lets not give jobs to the boys" comment. O'Neill will be a success in the short term but any sort of disagreement with Short and he will go. Would O'Neill have put up with the debacle with the transfers of Bent and Gyan? Maybe the point is that he wouldn't and so said transfers would never happen.

    Hughes, given a sniff of a job with a team higher up the table will be off and you wouldn't want to build for the future based on his promises. He's a mercenary.

    I think an Eddie Howe or Nigel Clough type move (not the managers themselves, just the search for talent in lower leagues) could be just the thing for Sunderland so they don't find themselves in the position again in 2-3 years time.

  • Comment number 87.

    Rafa Benitez for Sunderland??!!

    What is this? Comedy Central?!

    Why would a top quality manager of his indubitable expertise - who has won the three biggest trophies in European club football - slum it at a pub team like Sunderland?! :rollseyes:

    Even his move from a vibrant and vintage Valencia to a middling EPL club like Liverpool raised a few eyebrows amongst the aficionados of the beautiful game.

  • Comment number 88.

    Phil, your analysis that the Darren Bent departure caused Bruce's downfall is short-sighted.

    It was more to do with the management of Bruce. As a Man United fan i knew how mediocre Brown and O'Shea were, why sign them if you want to take Sunderland to the next level? Bruce could never think outside the box, just went with the mundane predictable players on the pitch and in the transfer market.

    I read a brilliant article that argued Bruce is a dinosaur who is obsolete in the modern game. Well worth a read.

    I like Bruce, nice guy, good player for United. But as a manager he's out of touch in the 21st Century. For his sake i hope he retires from management, sadly i think another struggling club will take him on edventually.

  • Comment number 89.


    Please don't mention Moyesy, now that would be tragic. Everton need him far more than Sunderland.

    A top manager with no funds and when he has spent money, he works the oracle when they move on, by making a profit.

  • Comment number 90.

    @87 That just made me burst out laughing....great point well presented!

  • Comment number 91.

    I agree. Bent was the start of the decline. I couldn't believe we got him in the first place. Similarly Gyan. I feel sorry for Steve Bruce I think he had the team moving in the right direction but he lost all of his strikers in the space of 6 months or so. Bent, Gyan, Campbell, Welbeck. You have to score goals in the Premier League. He has also suffered because Newcastle are having a good season. Location is something that has always seemed to prevent us from attracting genuinely top drawer talent. Not many people would choose to live in Sunderland. I wouldn't and I was born there. What now? Mark Hughes is dour plodder. O'Neill is just bonkers. I agree someone like Rafa would shake the place up and cheer everyone up.....but I doubt that he would come.

  • Comment number 92.

    Yeah Rafa is a top class manager that inherited a champions league winning squad and could hardly win a match.

    Your so totally boring soul, reading your posts is like reading the same post you posted months ago, cant be a bit creative than the same dribble of your unrelenting almost spamming posts.

    Nice to see Gatafe teaching your perfect Barca how to get a result.

    Not doing to well at the min are they,

    found out perhaps?

  • Comment number 93.

    #88 umpteenth_time_user save 606

    It was more to do with the management of Bruce. As a Man United fan i knew how mediocre Brown and O'Shea were, why sign them if you want to take Sunderland to the next level?
    Strange, most Man U fans seem to hold them up as excellent examples of the sort of squad player that have proved to be invaluable to the cause over the years.

    I would imagine that you are a minority in your opinion. (Though it is an opinion I largely agree with.)

    Surely Wickham was an example of thinking outside of the box?

  • Comment number 94.


    Dont encourage him..... he is like a Johavah witness once you give them some attention they just keep coming back to bug you.

  • Comment number 95.

    @ 87

    I know!! I was shocked when he left valencia for liverpool. Seemed like the wrong choice, wonder if with hindsight rafa agrees? Valencia could have been on a par with real and barca had he stayed.

  • Comment number 96.


    Of course you are allowed to comment :) V. interesting point about MON - I think if any manager was in at the point when Bent and Gyan were off they would have tried to keep them. I suspect that Bruce tried but lost out either to the board's decision or felt that neither were contributing (looking at pasture's new).

  • Comment number 97.


    Couldn't agree more. McLeish's appointment is an absolute disaster, and the tactics that he deployed against Spurs has all the hallmarks of a manager lacking the nouse and tactical attributes of a EPL manager.

    Sunderland fans should at least be relieved that McLeish is off the radar as a prospective replacement, and any of the names that are being branded about (Hughes, MON, Benitez etc) would infinately better replacements than big eck.

    Consequently, Bruce's departure should be seen by Sunderland fans as a window of opportunity. Any one of these names would be a good appointment in my eyes, and if you were to be succesful in appointing MON I can assure you that move would be looked upon with of envy from a lot of us Villa fans.

  • Comment number 98.

    94. At 11:14 1st Dec 2011, shadow warrior wrote:

    Oh, behave yourself!

    You're just bitter because Nikola Zigic can't beat the keeper from 12-yards out. :)

  • Comment number 99.

    Soul Patch

    Spain maybe for Rafa but in England a poor manager given the resources he had.

    A lucky manager winning a CL, Gerrard saved them early in the comp, an ancient Milan team switched off in the final. That same team who were 2 years older showed how lucky Liverpool were, 2 seasons later.

    A manager, whose team only lost twice all season and won the top 4 mini league comfortably but failed to win the title. That is almost impossible to achieve but Rafa did it.

    His playing style was awful, negative is the only word to use as born out by the endless draws his teams produced.

    That CL win wa never a product of a team built by Rafa.

  • Comment number 100.

    Let's be honest as a utd fan, o'shea was a good versatile squad player, nothing outstanding. Wes Brown is a decent defender though is due the odd lapse of concentration. But he's better than what SUFC have in turner, bramble etc.


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