It’s almost unheard of to witness two sets of opposing fans despise the manager one club is losing and the other gaining.
Steve Bruce has managed to unite Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United supporters in their distaste for a man with a managerial track record of walking out of one club for the alleged love of another.
That Bruce so wants to work for Mike Ashley that he had his representative contact Newcastle before outgoing Rafa Benitiez had packed his Chinese phrase book is one thing. The manner in which Bruce has treated Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, it’s chairman, players and fans, is quite another. It has left a nasty taste in my mouth. Not only because I have spent fifty years supporting the Owls.
Let us not forget the scenario when Wednesday offered Bruce a managerial lifeline late in 2018. It had been a tough few months for Bruce. His parents had passed away and he questioned whether he had the same appetite for football. So he claimed.
The devout Buddhist owner of the South Yorkshire Championship club, Dejphon Chansiri, met Bruce and offered him the job, telling him to take as much time as he needed to make a decision. Steve Bruce asked to be able to fulfil a promise to his family to take a winter break from the game. He wanted to remove from his own bucket list a desire to watch England cricketers play a test match in the West Indies (we now know managing the Magpies was on that same bucket list).
Mr. Chansiri was sympathetic to what Steve Bruce was going through. He hired Bruce, allowed him several weeks grace and told him to go off and enjoy his recuperative holiday. The Wednesday owner was mocked by some for being so generous. “He’s taking your man for a ride” one former employer of Bruce told me. It certainly seems that way now.
Steve Bruce can change his colours. But, like the leopard, he cannot change his spots.
He has previous. He walked out on Sheffield United to manage Huddersfield Town. He later played the same trick on Wigan Athletic owner, David Whelan. He gave Wigan no warning. He just quit in order to manage Crystal Palace. What happened next?
While managing Crystal Palace he engineered a move to Birmingham City. The Palace Chairman Simon Jordan refused to let him walk out, telling Bruce he would invoke clauses preventing Bruce from managing anywhere else. For as long as Jordan wanted. He told Bruce he’d be on permanent gardening leave. Bruce was shocked at the threat.
Jordan knew, of course, that he would have to settle on compensation with the shark who ran Birmingham City, the self styled prince of porn, David Sullivan. Negotiations with Sullivan and his right arm, Karren Brady, were long, fractious but entertaining, said Jordan.
What goes around comes around. Just two months after he had signed a new five year contract to stay at Birmingham City, Bruce was keen to replace the popular Sir Bobby Robson, who was controversially sacked by the then chairman of Newcastle, Freddy Shepherd. The two clubs failed to agree compensation. Do you see a pattern here? I do.
Fifteen years on and Mike Ashley, despised by Newcastle fans, told Steve Bruce to walk out on Sheffield Wednesday, so giving Ashley the upper hand when it comes to agreeing compensation with Wednesday.
He began negotiations with Sheffield Wednesday offering just one million pounds for Bruce and his assistants. He upped it to two million. Sheffield Wednesday asked for £4.5 million for Steve Bruce and a further £1.5 million for the assistants. After all, they were only employed seven months ago.
The last I was told, on Sunday, the figure likely to be offered by Newcastle was £3 million pounds. For everyone. We may get to be told officially what the compensation is although, frankly, if Mike Ashley told me my name was Vernon, I’d be rushing to find my birth certificate.
Ashley, as plenty of evidence confirms, always wants to do things on the cheap. Not simply the cheap crap he sells in his Sports Direct shops. He has been utterly ruthless with those who own shop premises. When established High Street names fail, the vulture called Mike Ashley swoops down, makes the property owners derisory offers. He bullies them with his ‘take it or leave it’ tactics. Only the strongest stand up to the bully. Mike Ashley is used to winning. At least in business. Everywhere but on the football pitch, about which he cares little. As Newcastle fans know to their cost.
Shares in his Sports Direct company plummeted on Monday morning. But that was not related to Steve Bruce being hired as manager of Newcastle United. It was because Ashley does not have his accounts ready for inspection on due date.
That’s who you are so keen to work for, Steve Bruce. You claim it is the job you have always desired. That you were born and bred a Newcastle fan. If you think that will play well with the loyal Newcastle fans who have been treated so shabbily for so long by the club owner, then you are not on Twitter.
Each time Steve Bruce has quit a club, dropping them like a stone for another, he has blamed a club chairman for not honouring agreements made when he was appointed. Bruce usually says he was promised transfer funds that were not forthcoming. It’s never his doing. We can expect to hear the same excuses for his treachery this time around.
Only now, with his level of duplicity, Steve Bruce is plumbing new depths.
He has has traded a club whose owner bent over backwards to trust him, at a club whose supporters backed him, with players who signed new contracts because they were excited at being managed by Bruce; for a club that has sold its leading goalscorer to Leicester City, whose supporters on Twitter are clearly against Steve Bruce from the off, and all to manage a Championship quality squad who survived in the Premier League thanks to the brilliance and loyalty of Rafa Benitez.
Steve Bruce has accepted the lowest salary of any Premier League manager. Far lower than Benitez was paid. Even lower than he was being paid at Championship club, Sheffield Wednesday. But he’s gone to work for a club whose owner has promised him a bonus of £500.000 (half a million quid) if he manages to do what Rafa did and keep the ‘Toon’ in the Premier League.
What ambition! What a reward for avoiding failure. What a sorry state of affairs. Money, money, money. It’s all these two men understand.
At Newcastle United, Steve Bruce will be working for a spiv. The poltroon of the Toon. An opportunist. Someone whose word is worthless. A man who cannot be trusted.
I guess it takes one to know one!
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