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Opinion

The story of Steve Bruce – How he now stands only 13 matches away from this milestone

1 day ago
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Whatever your opinion on Steve Bruce and his coaching skills, one thing which can’t be ignored, is his longevity in the management game.

Our 1-1 draw against Liverpool was game 987 in Bruce’s management career, leaving him just 13 short of joining an exclusive club of managers to take charge of 1,000 matches.

His struggles at Newcastle United have been well documented over the past two seasons, winning just 25 of his 83 matches in charge, but where else has he accumulated the number of the games required to take him so close to this historic milestone?

In this article we take a look back over this long Steve Bruce career in management.

Sheffield United 1998-1999: 55 games

Long touted as a player with management potential during his playing days with Manchester United, Bruce was still a player when he was given the top job at Sheffield United.

Bruce would complete one full season in charge of the Championship side, finishing in 8th place, nine points short of the play-offs. His time in charge is probably best remembered for the infamous FA Cup tie against Arsenal. With the score at 1–1 and with ten minutes to go, the Sheffield United goalkeeper Alan Kelly kicked the ball out of touch so that treatment could be given to Lee Morris. When the ball was thrown back into play by Ray Parlour, although it was intended for Kelly, Kanu chased the throw-in down the right wing and crossed the ball for Marc Overmars, who scored to make the match 2–1. Bruce tried to take his players off the pitch arguing the action was unsportsmanlike. After the match Arsene Wenger agreed and the match was replayed with Arsenal winning 2-1.

Huddersfield 1999-2000: 66 games

Next up for Bruce was another short assignment, this time at Huddersfield Town. There was early promise, including a six game winning streak which took them to third in the table, but their form tailed off and for a second season in a row Bruce missed out on the playoffs. He remained in charge for the start of the 2000-01 season but was sacked after a run of form which saw them pick up just six points from 11 matches to leave Huddersfield battling relegation.

Wigan Athletic 2001: 8 games

Steve Bruce wouldn’t be out of management for long, winding up at Wigan in April 2001, who at the time were challenging for promotion to the Championship. He was in charge for just eight matches, leading them to the play-offs before losing in the semi-finals. At the end of the season he left the post to take over at Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace 2001: 18 games

Just like his previous three roles his time at Crystal Palace was to prove short-lived. Bruce enjoyed an excellent start to the job winning 11 of his first 18 games to suggest a promotion push to the Premier League was on the cards. However, that form attracted the attention of Birmingham City and by December 2001 he was confirmed in his latest job.

Birmingham City 2001 – 2007: 270 games

After four jobs in less than three years, Bruce was gaining a reputation as a manager who wouldn’t stay anywhere for long – particularly if a more attractive offer came calling. He needed to settle down somewhere for the long-term if he was going to show the football world he was capable of more than what he had previously shown. That job would be Birmingham City, with Bruce staying at the club for nearly six years.

It would prove to be a rollercoaster ride with Bruce taking over a mid-table Championship side. His impact was immediate and a long unbeaten run saw Birmingham reach the play-offs and secure promotion to the Premier League with a penalty shootout victory over Norwich City. This ended a long absence out of the top flight of English football and the inspired signing of Frenchman Christophe Dugarry saw the club retain their place in the division in 2002-03.

A 10th place finish the following season attracted the attention of Newcastle United who were looking for a replacement for the recently sacked Bobby Robson. Although Bruce stated he was happy to stay at Birmingham, it was suspected that a disagreement between the clubs on the amount of compensation required to release Bruce from his contract was the only point that prevented the move from happening.

Performances gradually declined. They finished 12th that season and were then relegated back to the Championship in 2005-06. Despite calls for him to leave, Bruce remained in the job and led the club back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Despite this relative success he was unable to agree a new contract with the club and in November 2007 he returned to Wigan Athletic for a second spell having managed Birmingham for 270 matches.

Wigan Athletic 2007-2009: 68 games

Much had changed at Wigan Athletic by the time Bruce returned for his second stint in the job. They were now a Premier League club and had been League Cup finalists in 2006.

They were deep in a relegation battle when Bruce joined the club in November 2007 and they would spend the rest of the season struggling to avoid the drop, eventually securing safety with a victory over Aston Villa in their penultimate game of the season.

Wigan were much improved the following year with Bruce leading them to a comfortable 11th place finish in the Premier League. This decent season saw Bruce once again attracting the attention from clubs in the North East.

Sunderland 2009-2011: 98 games

However, it wasn’t to be his home town club, Newcastle United, that Bruce would join in the summer of 2009, but rather their great local rivals, Sunderland.

The Mackems had narrowly escaped the drop the previous season, while Newcastle were relegated. Bruce managed just over two seasons in charge at the Stadium of Light before being sacked in November 2011.

However, his spell at the club is perhaps best remembered, at least in the hearts of all fans of Newcastle United, for a humbling 5-1 defeat at St James Park.

Hull City 2012-2016: 201 games

Bruce’s next career stop was Hull City, appointed to the job in June 2012. Bruce would spend four years at the club and manage over 200 games. His first season was a great success as he led the club back to the Premier League, clinching second place and promotion in the final game of the season. The following season Bruce kept the club in the top flight, finishing in 16th place. Remarkably he also led the club to the final of the FA Cup, with a certain Steve Harper featuring heavily in the run to the final.

It looked as though Bruce would win his first major trophy as a manager when Hull went 2-0 up after 10 minutes. However, Arsene Wenger’s side would eventually win 3-2 in extra time.

Despite not lifting the trophy, reaching the final secured them passage to European football in 2014-15.

However the season was a disaster for Hull and Bruce. They were knocked out of both domestic cup competitions in the first round and failed to make it past the qualifying rounds of the Europa League. They were also relegated after a disastrous start to the season which saw them win just one of their first 17 league matches.

However, like he had at Birmingham City, Bruce survived this relegation with his job intact. Despite some difficulties during the season, Bruce secured the fourth promotion of his managerial career, defeating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 in the play-off final to return to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

That would be his final match in charge of the club with Bruce leaving that summer, seemingly frustrated with the club’s transfer plans for the new season.

Aston Villa 2016-2018: 102 games
After a few months out of work, Aston Villa were seduced by Bruce’s track record of four promotions from the Championship after suffering a desperate start to the season under Roberto Di Matteo.

Some shocking runs of form, including a run of seven defeats in nine games in January and February 2017, Bruce led the club to a 13th place finish.

Bruce and his side endured a difficult start to the 2017-18 season, winning just one of their first seven matches. However, a seven game winning run spanning December and February propelled them into play-off contention and Bruce’s side made it to the final before losing to Fulham.

Despite the prospect of having to spend a third season in the Championship, Bruce kept his job and Villa got off to a good start winning their first two matches of the season. However, just one victory in their next nine matches saw Bruce dismissed from the role after two years in the job.

Sheffield Wednesday 2019: 18 games

Bruce was out of work for just three months before joining Sheffield Wednesday. He was in charge for 18 matches, winning seven, drawing eight and losing just three as he steered the club away from the bottom three and to a comfortable mid-table finish.

Newcastle United 2019 – Present: 83 games

With Rafael Benitez leaving Newcastle in the summer of 2019, it was widely expected that we wouldn’t be overrun with good candidates willing to work under Mike Ashley’s ownership. However, I still don’t think any fans of the club thought we would ever be desperate enough to have to consider approaching Steve Bruce.

However, it quickly became clear that he was the hierarchy’s choice for the role and after a compensation wrangle with Sheffield Wednesday, who were understandably irked to be losing their manager only months after appointing him, Bruce was appointed in July 2019.

Bruce endured a mixed first season in charge but showed a knack for claiming results which performances barely merited. Despite a disappointing end to the season which saw the side fail to win any of their last six fixtures the club finished in 13th place on 44 points.

Bruce and his team enjoyed a reasonable start to the 2020-21 season, winning five, losing five and drawing two of the club’s first 12 league games, while also progressing to the League Cup quarter finals.

However an outbreak of Covid-19 disrupted the season, with our league form imploding spectacularly while also missing a golden opportunity to reach the League Cup semi-finals, losing 1-0 to Championship side Brentford.

The 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United was also a particular low point, gifting Chris Wilder’s side their first victory of the season. Unexpected victories against Everton and Southampton briefly eased the pressure on Bruce before another poor run culminated with a desperately bad performance to lose 3-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion, after which many people expected Bruce to lose his job.

He clung on though and in our four fixtures since, has won twice and drawn twice to ease clear of relegation fears. For another season at least.

Unless a Newcastle United takeover miraculously comes to fruition, it seems that Steve Bruce will be at the club next season and will likely still be in charge at St James Park when he reaches the 1,000 game milestone.

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