Steve Bruce stated today that he was the right man to lead Sunderland forward in the future, but after daring to delve a little deeper into Bruce’s muddled team selection and transfer policy while at the club, it’s fair to say that the only thing keeping Bruce in a job at the moment (in my opinion) is his relatively high standing within the game, all of course, gained during his time as a player and as a manager.
Sunderland at the moment looks to be a club in absolute freefall. On form, they are currently the worst team plying their trade in the top flight, with just one point and seven defeats from their last eight league games. The main factor in Bruce’s defence has been the – at times – crippling injury list which he has had to work with.
Bruce stated that: “Eight games ago, I was the best thing since sliced bread – in some people’s eyes – and within eight games, now all of a sudden people want me out” before going onto add “It is what it is, managing in the North East. But I still don’t regret it, I am still confident I am the right person for the job.”
Now an eight game winless run, in a league as difficult to read and close as this year’s Premier League is always likely to produce surprises especially within the team in trouble. Sunderland have gone from a side challenging for a European place, to one which is now just six points off of 18th placed West Ham and in real danger of being sucked into a relegation dogfight.
Aston Villa’s acquisition of Darren Bent was another of his former club’s troubles. With Bent at the club, Sunderland managed to gather 34 points from 23 games, since he left for Villa they’ve only accrued 4 points from 9 games. Aston Villa on the other hand have added a much needed 15 points from 10 games, whereas prior to his arrival it was 22 points from 22 games.
Asamoah Gyan has proved a successful signing, yet he cannot be relied upon in the same way to deliver a consistent stream of goals in the way Bent was during his time on Wearside. It’s fair to say that they’ve felt his loss a lot more keenly than they had ever previously anticipated.
Bruce thinks he remains a strong figure among Sunderland fans due to his Geordie heritage, however, I think this would prove to be nothing more than a useful deflective tactic of the manager to use when under pressure. In a league as competitive as the Premier League, where hopes are dashed and reignited on an almost weekly basis, would Bruce still be in a job were it not for his standing within the game as a player?
Also, when looking at the Sunderland squad, it’s difficult to define quite what a Steve Bruce player is. During his time at Sunderland, Bruce has received significant backing from Short and Quinn, yet there has been little progress made to represent value for money in the faith emplaced in Bruce in the transfer market so far. The side still looks short of width and pace as well as a leader or two among the ranks.
Such is the standard of quality within the bottom rungs of the Premier League, Sunderland should be just about safe come the end of the season. They have a modest run-in in which they should be able to pick up the points required to ensure their safety, yet there has to be real concern around the position of Sunderland football club that Bruce’s time at the club is spent and that in order to rouse the troops going into a new campaign, fresh ideas and methods are needed at the helm.
Under Bruce‘s management, Sunderland remain a Premier League side (just about) lacking direction and in search of an identity; it is because of this that Bruce deserves to go, not because of his Geordie roots or the eight game winless streak that he will inevitably point to as reasons for discontent on the terraces. His failure to arrest the club’s slide and the downturn in performances on the pitch is an indication of a wider, larger problem at the club and one that I very much doubt Bruce is capable of turning around.