When Steve Bruce fronted up at a local radio station last night to field questions from irate Newcastle fans he probably wasn’t expecting to be lobbed softballs regarding his favourite colour. The much-maligned manager accepted an invitation to appear on BBC Newcastle’s Total Sport and it’s probably fair to say that no broadcast will have prompted so many in the north-east to have huddled around their wirelesses with a shared feeling of expectant dread since King George VI took to the national airwaves to declare the outbreak of war with Germany.
While football phone-in shows, by their very nature, tend to attract their fair share of the deranged, the drunk and the downright doolally, those Geordies who made it to air seemed heartwarmingly sensible. Without resorting to effing and jeffing, they subjected Bruce to a bombardment of interrogatory projectiles covering a wide range of subjects, none of which could be satisfactorily answered by the word “magenta”.
A manager who can’t do right for doing wrong in the eyes of Newcastle fans who are quick to blame him for every bad result while giving his assistant Graeme Jones all the credit for any of their good ones, Bruce was asked if the rumours that Jones was appointed above his head were true.
“I’ve been in the job for something like 20 years,” Bruce snarled. “Do you really think I’m going to allow something like that to happen? First and foremost, results weren’t great at the time. It was important I brought somebody in, and I spoke to two or three candidates. Graeme was the first choice with what he’d done, and he’s a Geordie who was desperate to come back up here and work for his boyhood club.”
Of course, Newcastle is also Bruce’s boyhood club, a fact he tried to stress at every opportunity during his charm offensive. “How lucky am I to be a Newcastle fan and in the hot seat?” he asked. “For me, it’s a privilege.” And on fan expectations? “First and foremost, I am a fan myself so I want what’s best for the supporters of our great club, which is surely to try and win something.”
As PR exercises go, this one is unlikely to have done Bruce’s already battered reputation any further harm but it is unlikely to have impressed those frustrated by their manager constantly resorting to excuses regarding squad thinness, the easiness every other manager has it compared to him and how “these things take time”, all of which were revisited during his radio appearance.
On the subject of whether or not he watches Love Island, one of the more difficult questions he was forced to answer, Bruce was unequivocal and suggested the only Villa he is interested in will be hosting his team tomorrow. “Absolutely 100% not!” he declared. “Never seen it and I won’t. I can assure you of that.” A response, no doubt, that was ultimately behind Jake and Liberty’s subsequent shock decision to leave the reality show.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“On the weekend I will not play. I don’t even know who Everton is playing. Can you please tell me? I think it is away because the past was here at home” – Rather than Google it or ask Rafa Benítez/his mum, James Rodríguez tried to endear himself to Everton fans/any future employers by asking his Twitch followers who the Toffees are playing on Saturday (it’s Leeds).