Steve Bruce is a man who will always roll up his sleeves and take the responsibility for when things go wrong… as long as he can throw in a few jabs to blame other people first.
I’ve been incensed by his defeatist and excuse filled rhetoric before but I found myself absolutely seething at two of his latest quotes and if the players know what’s good for them, they should be too.
I’m going to start off with the more reserved quote from him first and then I’ll move over to the more….rambunctious quote:
“I expect the players to mirror myself a little bit. I was never blessed with wonderful ability, same as management, but the one thing I expect is a reaction, having a bit of pride about yourself and never being afraid of hard work. At the minute, it’s hard work.”
The first sentence is a bad start to this quote because the irony here is the players absolutely are mirroring Bruce. Every interview he does, he speaks about how things are difficult and how they’re not good enough; really negative things.
He has proven in his short time here to be a negative person and the players are mirroring his negativity on the pitch.
What Bruce is saying in the middle sentence isn’t particularly new; he has been pointing fingers at anyone other than himself and his boss from Day One. However, the crux of what he’s saying in this quote is that the players aren’t good enough and that they’re not putting in the hard work.
Bruce is no stranger to claiming that the players aren’t good enough and he infamously said that this was the main reason for losing after the Brentford match. This has always been the reason, barring referee decisions, that we’ve lost or performed badly, according to him.
One thing he has been claiming throughout his tenure, however, is that he can’t fault the efforts of the players.
The fact that he is now falling upon the idea that players aren’t working hard enough tells me that he really is teetering on the edge now. He’s always claimed that the players were “buying in” to what he wanted to achieve and that they were hard workers, but that’s gone now, so what is he left with?
According to him, he now has a team of people who are not good enough to play in the Premier League and a team of people who don’t want to try. To me, that sounds like he’s completely lost the dressing room and I’m hoping that, when he finds them, they give him a piece of their mind.
The quote “same as management” is an interesting one and we’ve had similar before where he’s told us all that we’re allowed to say he’s not a very good manager but there’s more of a self-admittance here, before he tries to cover up with the stuff about “pride” and “hard work”.
I’m tempted to believe that this is a Freudian slip. I think he is well aware of his incompetence (he’d be completely delusional not to be – which I know is a valid criticism and point) and that this mentioning of his management not being “wonderful” is a little glimpse into someone admitting, without flat out saying it, that they’re the problem.
His last sentence of “At the minute, it’s hard work” combines well with this management quote because it’s almost a cry for help. You could almost see him condensing this whole thing into “This is difficult and I’m not good enough to overcome it!”
I’d like to argue against his point of “pride” and “hard work” too because the lack of that is something that hasn’t been levelled at our players since the McClaren days.
Anyone who remembers that Leicester match under Benitez, where we made fifty thousand tackles in under a minute, could tell you that we are a team that have been able to pride ourselves on hard work for a good while. Even last season, under Bruce, there was an element of donkey work being something that would pull us through.
If that has gone and he feels the need to demand it, well, that tells us that something has now broken and, nine times out of ten, this is an element that is broken by a manager.
“the one thing I expect is a reaction” tells its own story really. If the one thing that you want is a “reaction” then it tells you that you’re already starting from a negative. It tells you that the one thing Steve Bruce wants is for when things go wrong (because he expects things to go wrong) that there is an attempt to temporarily fix them by reacting to them.
While writing this, I quickly looked up the difference between “reactive” and “proactive” and I came across this fascinating discussion about the topic in an academic field – Read it here
So many comments are written here discussing how a proactive attitude to things provides better results than reactive responses. A reaction is a good one-off thing to combat immediate issues but being proactive means that there’s an attempt to stop negative things before they happen.
I was particularly interested in this quote by Jaharkanti Dattagupta:
“Proactive approach is certainly better than reactive approach. You would agree that fire prevention is better than firefighting. It is a known fact that, a spark neglected burns the house.”
Seems to me, Steve Bruce has neglected a negative spark and has been reactively firefighting with a hose full of oil.
Talking about firefighting with a hose full of oil, Bruce has added to his questionable handling of media questions by extraordinarily cursing about the match and his players:
“We were absolutely frigging hopeless the other night. Absolute **** we were. I’ve let them (the players) be comfortable but the gloves are off now. I’m going to do it my way.”
For the first two sentences, he’s dead on but as his following sentences show, he’s merely trying to deflect the blame from himself again.
Let’s make something clear too, this is polite swearing. In the realms of naughty words, “frigging” and “*****” are relatively low on the list of things that will cause offence. They’re absolutely unprofessional but worse things have been said generally and worse things have been said by a Newcastle manager.
My initial response to this was shock and I am still a little shocked by it but, after reading it a few times over, I’m tempted to suggest that he’s feigning anger a little bit here so that he can he get back to telling his narrative. When you use words like “frigging” and “*****”, you’re holding back from saying the real words that pack that extra emotional punch. He wants us to know that he’s as angry as we are with the results (or Sheffield United result as he has keenly focused on) and he also wants us to know that blame lies with the players but that he’s going to sort it.
Call me cynical but I just don’t buy this as genuine emotion in the way he wants to convey it. This is a pathetic and unprofessional way of putting blame on the players and trying to keep the culpability away from himself.
The idea that players have been comfortable is a laughable notion because Jetro Willems sure didn’t seem comfortable when making his debut and not knowing where he was playing, Jamaal Lascelles didn’t seem comfortable having to face up to the 5-0 embarrassment to Leicester and Isaac Hayden didn’t seem comfortable when he told Bruce that the plan wasn’t working against Brighton.
Even more laughable than the glove quote is the idea that he is now going to do it his “way.”
What does that even mean? Whose way was he doing it in the 18 months prior? Everything prior to now have been a “work in progress” so that work has been someone else’s work?
If you’ve not been doing it your way from the beginning, as a manager, and you’ve then continued to not do it your way for a year and a half, then you’ve been stealing a living for doing nothing.
The quotes from him afterwards are the same old bluster he’s always given about taking responsibility but not really, by having a good managerial record but not really and by accepting and understanding criticism… but not really.
Every time I think I’m completely sick of him, he adds to my nausea.
Put your coat on Steve, along with your gloves, and take yourself for a walk out of our club.