"After what happened to me at Sunderland I know how difficult the north east is. I have only been at Hull a couple of years and they have been really good. They gave me the chance to get up and running again and for that I will always be grateful."
These were the words that came out of Steve Bruce’s mouth last September to dispel rumours that he might like the Newcastle United job should Alan Pardew depart from the club.
Pardew did of course end up leaving The Magpies for Crystal Palace in January and Bruce stayed put, but what now?
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Hull City have been relegated, a situation which usually means that the manager who was there from the start of the season leaves or is at least relieved of his duties.
Will Bruce be sacked or backed? And what if it is the latter and he gets an offer from the Premier League? Newcastle, of course, survived and one would imagine John Carver will not be appointed manager, so there could be a void to fill there.
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Many feel Bruce has got the support of Tigers’ chairman, Assem Allam, but after all the financial backing he gave Bruce to spend in the transfer market, Allam - who has been a valuable asset to the club - may feel he didn’t get his money’s worth.
For someone who is willing and actively trying to alienate supporters by changing the club’s name from Hull City to the ‘American’ sounding Hull Tigers in the belief that it will generate more revenue, money obviously means a lot to the Egyptian – even if he is doing it for the ‘benefit’ of Hull.
So, despite the parachute payments on their way, getting relegated from the Premier League is bad for business. Still, some of those men who were at the helm when it happened are usually the best candidates to get them back (that’s for another article, though).
Whether Bruce was ever close to discussing the possibility of managing his boyhood heroes Newcastle United when Pardew left, or was on the verge of leaving, is not in the public domain.
He was loyal to Hull then and might be loyal now, but what if he gets the choice? Even if he is backed by Allam, his loyalty could be pushed by the lure of the Premier League and the chance to manage the team he supports; a club that would be the biggest one, both in history and stature, he has managed so far in his 17 years as a ‘gaffer’.
Like he alluded to in his quote above, ties are strong in the north east and Sunderland fans could never quite accept having a Geordie in charge.
Now, despite Bruce supporting Newcastle, his fellow fans may feel in a similar way; in not wanting someone who has managed the enemy managing their club. Or maybe they would feel protective of ‘one of their boys’ after the abuse Mackem fans gave him.
Bruce could be a risky appointment
Bruce has got a pretty good CV in football management, but he has now been relegated twice from the top-flight – with Birmingham City in 2006 and then Hull this year.
Despite a few decent finishes with Birmingham in the Premier League and Sunderland thereafter, the board at Newcastle may feel it could be a risk, particularly with the abuse they are getting from fans - as the supporters themselves may see it as showing a lack of ambition.
They hounded out a man with a decent record at the club in Alan Pardew, seemingly for being one of Mike Ashley’s boys (or ‘cockney mafia’ as they are referred to in some quarters), so maybe they wouldn’t mind a local lad with Bruce’s reputation in charge.
If fellow Geordie John Carver had carried on the win rate of Pardew then he would have been preferable to the man now at Palace, but there would not be many who would be happy to see Carver appointed Newcastle United manager tomorrow.
Bruce’s teams play good, quick passing football, which would go down well at St. James’ Park. He got relegated at Birmingham, but having been out of the top-flight for nearly two decades, the club did well to stay there for three seasons under Bruce; while he guided Sunderland to 13th and 10th in his two full seasons there whereas they had come 16th the campaign before his appointment.
If Bruce is not for Newcastle or vice versa then where for current Hull boss? If he insists on staying in the Premier League then he will unlikely get a shot at it until after the new season has started, but after sacking Steve McClaren, Derby County are sure to be monitoring Bruce’s situation, so watch this space.