When Steve Bruce was a child he would make a sixteen mile journey every second weekend from his hometown Corbridge to watch Joe Harvey’s Newcastle United.
The Hull City manager still speaks fondly of the days he used crawl under the turnstiles at St. James’ Park to save his pocket money for the bus journey home. When Malcolm MacDonald scored twice at Turf Moor to send the Geordies to Wembley in 1974, a thirteen year old Bruce celebrated amongst the Burnley fans after receiving two tickets in the home stand.
“I have always been a Newcastle lad. They were my team, I went to support them as a boy and being a Geordie it’s in-bred; you follow the club the same way today”.
Bruce is aware that throughout his career, both as player and manager, he has always been linked to club he loves.
When Alan Pardew fled Newcastle for Crystal Palace in December, Bruce turned down the opportunity to jump ship from one ailing ship at Hull to another. The startling thing about this decision wasn’t the fact he had ignored his childhood affinity to the north-eastern club and stayed at a club sliding down the Premier League table. The surprising thing was that he didn’t accept the chance to work under Mike Ashley.
If Bruce’s time at Hull City has proven one thing it is he is a spineless football manager.
Perhaps it’s unfair to have expected Bruce to publically denounce Hull chairman Assem Allam’s attempt to rename the club Hull City Tigers since they returned to the top flight last season. His willingness to tow the company line however was alarming; particularly when you take into account the aggressive language used by the Egyptian when arguing his case. Bruce’s stance certainly damaged the club’s supporters’ opinion of him, but it definitely would have appealed to the Ashley.
Since deciding to stay at The KC Stadium Hull’s season has continued to descend into an inevitable struggle against relegation. They’ve lost their last two fixtures by three-goals to nil against West Ham and Bruce’s boyhood club.
Ominously, after the Upton Park fixture the Geordie lashed out at his players.
“The second half was awful by us. The goalkeeper, for me, and Curtis Davies have got to do better on the first goal and we’re out of position on the second. We’ve gifted horrible goals… The first goal was awful, the second wasn’t much better and we could have done better with the third. We simply weren’t good enough in the second half and we have to accept that.”
His outburst wasn’t limited to his defenders; Bruce lamented the side’s strikers, not so subtly reminding them that they had cost the club a lot of money.
Despite being into the second half of the season Bruce still can’t assemble a balanced line-up from his squad. The former centre-half is reluctant to load his more creative, liberal players like Gaston Ramirez and Abel Hernandez into the starting eleven Hull in fear of being overrun, while the inclusion of the likes of David Meyler, Stephen Quinn and Jake Livermore results in a team devoid of any creativity.
Comments like Bruce’s after the West Ham game often indicate the point of no return has been reached. This idea is compounded by his claim individual errors were the reason for his side’s loss at Newcastle last week.
If Bruce fails to turnaround Hull City’s fortunes he may find himself out of a job in the summer. Most owners wouldn’t value the traits Bruce has exhibited this season.
One will though.