Alan Biggs' Sheffield Wednesday Column: The man-of-the-people touch that will serve Steve Bruce well as manager at Hillsborough

Of all the myths and mystique surrounding football managers, only one thing translates to real life. People skills. Name one manager who succeeded for any length of time without that.

Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 3:23 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 3:27 pm
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 22: Steve Bruce, Manager of Aston Villa looks on prior to the Sky Bet Championship match between Aston Villa and Brentford at Villa Park on August 22, 2018 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Steve Bruce has it in spades. I've seen him prowling thunder-faced in corridors outside dressing room doors, while not daring straight after a defeat to approach even a man it's a privilege to have come to know quite well.

He's then emerged to tell it exactly as you saw it, calmly and engagingly, without heaping individual blame on any of those behind that door or taking exception to probing questions.

Steve Bruce (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

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You wonder whether it was the same inside; probably not. But if there's been any squealing in public, this column must have missed it.

That is what Sheffield Wednesday and their players are getting. In common with the best bosses - and Bruce enjoyed the peak of his playing career under Sir Alex Ferguson, remember - he knows how to handle players publicly and privately. 

Apologies for mentioning three of Sheffield United's finest - Dave Bassett, Neil Warnock and Chris Wilder - in the same way here. For redemption, Howard Wilkinson, Ron Atkinson and, among others and in his own way, Jack Charlton.

These guys, often savagely critical in private, have seldom received any sort of backlash in public. Man-management is the reason. And respect for that.

For instance, in the Sheffield Star last week former Owls keeper Chris Kirkland, who played in the Premier League under Bruce at Wigan, ventured: 'Every single one of us in the changing room had no bad words to say about him.'

Bruce can be ruthless. Of course he can. He wouldn't have had 21 years in management, extending to a tenth club, without being that. You can't keep everyone happy and there will be tough decisions on players leaving Hillsborough.

He's moved around but become emotionally committed to his clubs. I saw him display that at Hull, where he was handicapped by unpopular ownership, without ever criticising the regime, to lead the Tigers to promotion - at Wednesday's expense in 2016.

Following Hull's eve-of-play-off final press conference, after most journalists had dispersed, I heard Bruce anxiously discussing the club's lack of Wembley support with media officials.

'And how many will Wednesday have?' he asked. I couldn't resist piping up that they'd sold out - all 38,889.

'F*** off Biggsy,' he said. It was playful but with an edge; evidence of a man who cared. It is betraying no secrets that that support 'still ringing in my ears' is one of his major reasons for taking the Owls job.

'But will they have me?' I think that question has been well put to bed beyond the assurances given at the time.

From personal experience, he was interested in Wednesday at least once before - at the end of his playing career post-David Pleat in 1997.

A request to forward his name. By chance, he then started management at Sheffield United where political pressures - he effectively had three chairmen! - sparked a walk out for Huddersfield. At Wednesday he has one. That relationship is key. Bruce has the skills to make it a good one.

You can criticise this guy but you can't fail to like him. Once, when he was managing Sunderland in the Premier League and I was working for the BBC at the Stadium of Light, I saw him striding the pitch while setting up in the press box a couple of hours before kick off.

There was a wave from below - and also a signal to join him. For a  few enlightening minutes I was walking the turf chatting football with a giant of the game.

Bruce has that common, man-of-the-people touch. He's a master of media relations and, in common with players, I've yet to meet a journalist who doesn't like him.

The hope - and expectation - follows that he pulls the Sheffield Wednesday family together. Factions have focused on either the owner or the manager, or both. Bruce will concentrate on it being one entity with him at the forefront.

This, I feel, was a major factor in Dejphon Chansiri's choice. And surely a very wise one.