According to The Guardian on Saturday 7th June – Hull City gaffer Steve Bruce is on a 6-man shortlist to replace Mauricio Pochettino as Southampton manager. The paper also claims that former Dutch International defender Ronald Koeman and Bruce are the front runners.
It’s a situation I’ve been dreading since Bruce was appointed. I was a big fan of the decision to go for Bruce after Nick Barmby departed. He had everything we were looking for at the time. Experience of getting promoted from the Championship, the ability to motivate players and a good eye for talent. It remains by far the best decision the Allams have made since they bought the club.
The one negative against Bruce however was his history of leaving clubs for better jobs. He resigned as Sheffield United manager in 1999 to move to Huddersfield. While in 2001 he left Wigan after only 2 months to take over at Crystal Palace where he lasted only slightly longer before jumping to Birmingham City.
He settled down in the midlands and spent six years as Blues’ boss. Two years followed in charge of Wigan, Sunderland and The Tigers – so far. That makes Bruce’s history look a little less “flighty”. The fact still remains that before he came to Hull, he’d jumped ship from the last four clubs who hadn’t sacked him.
That doesn’t fill me with a lot of confidence that Bruce would turn down a job he sees as a chance to progress. Nor would I be surprised if the opportunity comes his way. He’s done a fabulous job in Hull. He turned a mid-table side into a promotion contender in 5 months while only spending serious money on one (bit part) player. With backing in January to sign David Meyler and Robbie Brady permanently – he completed the job.
Having secured Premier league football, he set about building a team who could stay there. With an outlay of just under £13m, which is small by Premier League standards, he created a group that rarely looked in danger of relegation and took the club to a historic first ever FA Cup Final. Again he was backed in January and spent around £14m on Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic to, in his mind, ensure the squad was strong enough to withstand the second half of the season.
Despite his success Bruce has been around the game long enough to know that there is a chance things could turn around quickly. Hull City face their first ever European campaign next season which will increase the load on his squad. The club is also set for another season embroiled in a row over the plans to change the name to “Hull Tigers”. The situation isn’t as stable as it could be while Bruce has only a year left on his contract and his reputation is as high as it has been for a long, long time.
To answer the question of whether there is a real chance that The Tigers could lose Bruce I think you have to assess whether the opportunity actually exists. Southampton see themselves as a progressive club. They’ve lost a young, foreign manager and have been linked with a number of others. Bruce would be quite the departure from what their philosophy has been the past year and half.
I think he’d be on a hiding to nothing. Saints fans wouldn’t make him any more welcome than Sunderland’s did – albeit for different reasons. They see their club as being above an old school British manager. The job itself is a tough one too. Southampton finished 8th last season. It was a terrific achievement and one that has seen vultures circling around the best young players in the squad. It’s going to take a huge effort to rebuild the squad and match or surpass last season’s finish.
Here’s hoping that no real interest exists because I think Bruce would find the opportunity hard to resist. He has faith in his ability to overcome the odds. Even if it isn’t, deep down I know that another one will come along soon. It’s the price of success.