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Steve Bruce knows what awaits him at Newcastle but fans must judge him on results not reputation

Luke Edwards
Steve Bruce has resigned as manager of Sheffield Wednesday in the hope of forcing through a move - Getty Images Europe

Steve Bruce is either very brave or very foolish to want the manager’s job at Newcastle United, although in truth there is often little to distinguish between these character traits.

Just as the soldier who storms an enemy machine gun position armed with a pistol and a hunting knife might win a medal for bravery, those who love him would no doubt argue the act itself was reckless and stupid.

Bruce is no soldier, but in agreeing to become Rafa Benitez’s replacement at Newcastle he is putting himself at risk of ridicule, abuse and the sort of criticism that can destroy a man as well as a reputation.

Huge numbers of Newcastle supporters do not want him anywhere near their club. They do not think he is good enough, strong enough, wise enough or clever enough to step into Benitez’s shoes.

There are those who think he is a terrible manager; one who has failed time and time again, who has not managed in the Premier League for four years and was sacked by Aston Villa in his last big job after he failed to get them promoted from the Championship.

Bruce, 58, is eight months younger than Benitez and has managed nine previous clubs Credit: PA

Others will call him a dinosaur; a dial up internet manager in a 5G world. At 58, Bruce is past it, football has moved on, it is too sophisticated for a man of his tastes and tactics.

He is actually eight months younger than Benitez. However, trophies won and club’s managed define perceptions, not birth certificates and Benitez’s CV is far superior. He is a world class manager, Bruce is viewed as a journeyman and he cannot do anything to change that. Not yet, not until he actually gets to work on Tyneside.

Even those who are more appreciative of Bruce’s skill as a manager, who see a wider picture and acknowledge that managers are only ever as good as their players and that success is relative to the resources at their disposal, will agree that the former Manchester United captain is extremely lucky to get an opportunity at Newcastle.

Yet, still he puts himself forward for the job, despite everything that he knows will be thrown at him. The list of slights is a long one, even the manner of his departure from Sheffield Wednesday provokes emotional reactions.

He has only been at Hillsborough for six months - they held the job open for him while he recovered from skin cancer surgery and mourned the death of both his parents. Yet, still he is willing to leave Wednesday in the lurch, so you can add traitor to the list of charges against him.

He leaves all that, a club where he was wanted and supporters who appreciated him for a toxic atmosphere on Tyneside. He is not responsible for creating that atmosphere, it is nothing to do with him, but his arrival will not provide an antidote to the poison at St James' Park. Not at first, it may not do so ever.

Steve Bruce would have big shoes to fill with Rafa Benitez previously held in high esteem by Newcastle fans Credit: Getty Images

This summer, an already unpopular owner, Mike Ashley, has lost the best and most popular manager Newcastle have employed since Sir Bobby Robson. Benitez united the football club, Bruce seems to have divided it further.

A bomb has gone off this summer, but at some point, somebody has to try and clear the wreckage up.

Where others wavered and turned them down, where others felt the job was too challenging and too volatile, Bruce said yes.

He would not have done so for another club. Newcastle United are the club he supported as a boy, the club he always wanted to play for but never got an opportunity to do so. Newcastle rejected him as a player, so he went to Gillingham, Norwich and won plenty of silverware as a centre back at Manchester United.

He rejected Newcastle as a manager, turned them down twice before this, the last of which when he refused to stab Robson in the back, offered it when his friend was still in the dugout.

It is the job his parents always dreamed he would get before they passed away last year. There is a huge amount of emotion behind his decision to accept Newcastle’s save our season cry. If it had been another club, you suspect Bruce would have stayed put at Sheffield Wednesday, backing himself to return to the Premier League by getting the Yorkshire club promoted.

The former Manchester United defender has enjoyed managerial success, including promotion with Birmingham City and Hull City Credit: Action Images

There are those who cry he is not a proper Geordie because he is willing to work for someone like Ashley. They argue he should have rejected the offer in solidarity with those who wants Ashley out.

It is a romantic view of the world, but it is not how Bruce sees it. He wants the job and believes he is good enough to make a success of it. He has waited a long time for this moment - he will stick out his chin, puff out his chest, roll up his sleeves and he will relish it.

He knows he is fortunate to be given this chance but backs himself. And for those who still scream he is a bad manager, maybe consider the following. Bruce was more successful at Wigan than Roberto Martinez, he got Birmingham City promoted twice, he guided Sunderland to their third highest Premier League finish, got Hull City promoted twice, kept them up for a year, qualified for Europe for the first time and took them to a FA Cup Final. He even saved Aston Villa from relegation in his first season and took them to the play off final at the end of that campaign.

He is not Benitez, not many are. But every manager must be judged on performances and results once they are in the job, not before. You cannot label an appointment a disaster before a game has been played.

Bruce knows what he is letting himself in for, but he also knows he will not get a better chance to prove he is a better manager than people have given him credit for in the past.

And if he gets this one right, if he can succeed where so many others have failed, it will be the greatest achievement of his managerial career. Good luck to him.