Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Steve Bruce..Give the Man Some Love

When Steve Bruce left Birmingham City to take over as manager at Wigan in late November, many people questioned both the man himself and his new club.

"What was Dave Whelan thinking in hiring Steve Bruce? He's rubbish."

"Steve, why would you leave a club in the relegation battle just to join another club in the same predicament?"

I'll tell you what, folks, Steve Bruce is not a bad manager. I'm not saying this just because Wigan ended Chelsea's title hopes yesterday, either. Check the archives; I've been high on this guy since I first started watching the Premiership two seasons ago, when Birmingham was relegated. Bruce took them back up the next season, and although I predicted Birmingham would go down again this year, it wasn't because of the manager.

When he left for Wigan, I wrote an article about it and in that post, I said that his departure "really hurts Birmingham's chances of staying in the Premiership as Bruce is a quality manager whose players love playing for him." I talked about how Wigan, as a squad comprised largely of veteran, experienced players, had legitimate hopes to stay up because Bruce was the right guy to harness that experience and get the best out of what he had.

He supports his players in public and never throws them under the bus in the media. He takes the blame when his team doesn't get a result and gives the players credit when they do walk away with points.

This is a guy who, like Sam Allardyce, can grind and grind away and at the end of 90 minutes, can get out with a point or even steal a victory. Remember, Bruce has two draws at Anfield this season (one with Birmingham, one with Wigan), a draw against Arsenal, and now a draw against Chelsea. He's won the games he's needed to win, including a 2-0 victory against his former team 10 days ago.

Since Bruce's arrival at the JJB, Wigan is 9-6-10 in all competitions. I'll admit, that record doesn't look like anything special by itself, fair enough. When you look at what he has to work with, though, you do have to be impressed with where Wigan is right now. In 15th place, the Latics are safe and are just two points short of leaping into 13th.

Yes, there is a lot of experience on the roster, but there really isn't too much in the way of talent. When your goalscoring leader is Marcus Bent, yes, Marcus Bent, and he only has seven league goals, you have to admire the job Steve Bruce has done. A whopping 23 players have started a Premiership game this season and two others have appeared solely off the bench. Ryan Taylor, arguably Wigan's best player, rarely actually is on the field because he's always injured.

It's about time that more people started appreciating Brucey as a manager. He's not flashy and his teams don't always play an attractive style, but at the end of the day, all you can ask for is results and that's what Bruce can give you.

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