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Opinion

Essential Reading: The beginners guide to BruceSpeak

1 week ago
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For a successful (someone will always appoint him) manager, Steve Bruce, famously, does not do tactics.

Friends in the media claim his original quote was a self-deprecating, throwaway line.

After his sacking by Sunderland, The Guardian’s Louise Taylor acknowledged this, but then concluded he was out of his depth.

Quote: His old-fashioned motivational approach had been left behind by modern coaching methods, technology and tactics. Her article summed up Bruce perfectly and has recently been covered in The Mag.

Roll on eight years of managerial mediocrity and she had a pop at Newcastle fans for not backing ‘a man whose era has passed’ (her words back then). But that’s a different story, of media hypocrisy, that we all know well.

Not doing tactics has a number of consequences. Foremost, is the simple fact that you tend to lose games. Whenever a rival manager re-configured his system mid-game, Bruce invariably failed to come up with a countermeasure – Louise again. A less obvious consequence is that you have nothing concrete to say in press conferences, and so Brucespeak was born.

There are four basic levels to Brucespeak:

Canny Fella;

Football Manager Waffle;

Contradictions and Lies;

Controlling the Narrative.

As Brucespeak contains a lot of jumbled up nonsense, the levels reflect how much effort the listener puts in to work it all out. Here is The Beginners Guide to Brucespeak.

1) Canny Fella.

If you just hear Steve in passing, he comes across as a decent, honest, friendly bloke. Because he often loses, he is often heard talking about mistakes and hoping to do better. This makes him seem even more honest and can garner a bit of sympathy.

2) Football Manager Waffle.

If you follow your football in any detail, you might want to know why he lost and how he will do better. You might be disappointed, because it doesn’t really get much beyond: sitting in too much; pressing too high; doing more in the top end; making a fist of it etc. Some of this is sort of comprehensible, some of it is not.

3) Contradictions and Lies.

If you listen to everything he says, and have a functioning memory, these are obvious. Never wanted to manage Newcastle / always wanted to manage Newcastle. The signings were mine. Given more money in one window than the whole time at any other club. Happy with the players / players need time. We’ll play on the front foot.

4) Controlling the Narrative.

You have to think a little bit for this. Considering how stupid the waffle is, and how obvious the contradictions and lies are, it can be surprisingly subtle, sly and nasty.

The fans need to give him the respect he deserves for managing over 950 games. The players can’t play his attacking front foot football because they are so negatively conditioned (by Rafa). The club has been in a cycle of underperformance and fighting relegation for a few years (under Rafa). These build up from simple lies and lead to a rewriting of history.

Steve Bruce is struggling because of Rafa. When Steve Bruce fails, it will be because of the fans.

It sounds ridiculous but that is the narrative that is building. And some people will believe it.

Most people do not follow Bruce’s club. They just hear the Canny Fella and a bit of Football Manager Waffle. Most of the media do not point out the Contradictions and Lies, and many are complicit in Controlling the Narrative.

Just before Villa sacked him, the Telegraph published a match report by Matt Law with the headline: Aston Villa look clueless and directionless – Steve Bruce is on borrowed time.

It opened with: The guy to my right started within the first minute of kick-off. “It’s a joke”, he frequently complained. “We can’t pass. The defending’s s****.” And so it went on.

By only the fourth paragraph, Matt was writing: Any sympathy for Bruce during the opening exchanges soon wore off and I could quickly empathise with my neighbour, who had probably witnessed the draw with Reading, the lucky win over Wigan and the Carabao Cup defeat to Burton Albion earlier in the season.

A typical below the line comment was: As the article points out Bruce is reactive rather than pro-active which turns games where we’re one nil up into nervous, defensive affairs until we inevitably concede. His substitutions come far too late and are often uninspiring. The football is also dire to watch. You can get away with that when you’re winning but not when you’re losing. I’d rather see Bruce gone but who would we replace him with?

Sound familiar?

After Monday’s match, the Telegraph’s report (not by Matt Law) included this classic about Bruce: Villa fans hounded him out by the end, but it was not the disastrous tenure many would have you believe.

Note to John Percy and Alan Tyers for the above: They probably didn’t and it probably was.

The media know what Bruce is like, and fans of previous clubs certainly do, yet he largely gets away with it. Steve Bruce will roll on to his next club, supported by friendly reporters, and Brucespeak will continue.

(Steve Bruce was a manager who refused to move with the times; Louise Taylor, The Guardian, 30 Nov 2011)

(Aston Villa look clueless and directionless – Steve Bruce is on borrowed time; Matt Law, Telegraph, 25 Sep 2018)

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