Sheffield Derby: Steve Bruce ‘looking forward to whatever they call me’ as Sheffield Wednesday prepare to face Sheffield United
It is tin hat time for Steve Bruce as he prepares to face his old club Sheffield United in his first Steel City derby.
Bruce's first coaching job was at Bramall Lane as player-manager back in the 1998-99 season.
Because of his Blades connections, Bruce expects to be on the receiving end of some good-natured banter from the away end when his Owls team entertain the Championship promotion hopefuls on Monday evening.
Bruce, the second person after Danny Wilson to manage both Sheffield clubs, said: "It can only happen to me! I'm a Newcastle fan and I managed Sunderland. I managed Birmingham and went to (Aston) Villa.
"It was 20 years ago I managed United. I was player-manager to start with so it was an incredibly long time ago.
"When you have been doing it as long as me (management), the one thing you can guarantee is that you are going to get a bit of stick.
"I'm looking forward to whatever they call me on the Monday.
"I am sure they will have something up their sleeves, it won’t be very complementary.
"As long as it is given in the right way, I will have a chuckle afterwards.
"Usually when you get a bit of stick, there is a bit of respect from the stands."
Bruce played 11 times for United before calling time on his glittering playing career. The former Manchester United defender guided the Blades to an eighth-placed finish before heading to Huddersfield Town in the summer of 1999.
"I will always be eternally grateful, because they gave me the chance," said Bruce. "I was a player-manager and that in itself was difficult.
"I played my last game of football for them, I retired after we lost to Sunderland.
"It was a difficult start, there were many difficulties at the club, but they gave me my first breakthrough.
"It made me learn very quickly about management, about what’s not written on the tin when you get in there. That’s all I am going to say about it, because there was many difficulties.
"After I left Huddersfield, I had a wonderful opportunity to go and work in TV. I thought long and hard about it, and very nearly did it.
"When you have to sell you centre-forward on deadline day, and you are second top of the league at Huddersfield, to balance the books, that gives you a wake-up call.
"I don’t think the Huddersfield fans have ever forgiven me. The manager gets the wrath.
"In that time, I was going to go into TV. Dave Whelan was the first real chairman, where I thought, ‘yeah, i quite enjoy it’. Before that, it was difficult, let’s put it that way."
The prospect of squaring off against his former United team-mate Chris Wilder is one Bruce is looking forward to.
Wilder, within the space of two-and-a-half-years, has turned around the Blades' fortunes. After romping to the League One title, United secured a 10th-placed finish last term after flirting with the Championship play-offs.
And the Blades head into the 131st competitive derby firmly in the automatic promotion chase.
Bruce said: "Our neighbours have been doing really well of late. They mounted a challenge last year, and just fell away.
"Over the last couple of years they have made big strides, to be at the top end of the Championship, where two or three years ago they were in League One."
Wednesday represent Bruce’s 10th role and ninth club of his 21-year managerial career. As he readily admits, it could be his last job in football.
Bruce has never hidden from the fact that there is a big rebuilding job to be done at Hillsborough.
He labelled their triple-header with Swansea City, Brentford and United as a "defining" period in their season. So far so good. His players produced the goods against the Swans and Bees, picking up maximum points to stretch their unbeaten league run to seven matches.
The Owls are going in the right direction and Bruce has not given up hope of a late play-off tilt.
"We have 12 games to go," said Bruce. "We are hitting a good period of form, but can we continue it? We have got some big games coming up.
"We have given ourselves a little chance, and it’s got everyone excited. The big thing for me, is it’s small steps, that’s all we have done so far."
Facts you never knew about the Sheffield Wednesday boss
Defender, manager, plumber, author – Steve Bruce has done it all… except be involved in a Sheffield derby.
That’s soon to change though as Sheffield Wednesday prepare to host city rivals Sheffield United on Monday night at Hillsborough as the Owls chief looks to preserve his unbeaten record so far.
But there’s more than meets the eye where Bruce is concerned – at least, more than his impressive record of four Championship promotions and 309 Manchester United appearances reveals on paper.
The Wednesday boss grew up in the north east near Wallsend, where he played for the famous Boys Club who have produced talent such as Peter Beardsley, Michael Carrick, Brian Laws and Alan Shearer over the years.
Bruce was turned down by a number of professional clubs including Sunderland, Southport, Derby County and Newcastle United, who he supported as a boy, before eventually joining Gillingham in the Third Division.
He signed for Gerry Summers’ side just as he was about to start work as a plumber’s apprentice and made the switch from midfielder to defender while in Kent.
Moves to Norwich City, Manchester United, Brimingham City and Sheffield United followed as he won three Premier League titles, two Football League cups, a European Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup.
Despite being a central defender, Bruce had an impressive scoring record in his time as a player – he found the net 113 times during his career.
In the 1990/91 season he found the net an impressive 19 times in all competitions for Manchester United, with 13 of those coming in the league.
As a manager, Bruce’s pedigree of four promotions has made him one of the top candidates for any ambitious Championship club if they have a managerial vacancy but he has only ever won the second division title once with Birmingham City in 2002.
His other promotions have come via the play-offs or runner-up spot.
As if all that wasn’t enough for one man’s footballing CV, Bruce has also written four books including his autobiography Heading for Victory and three novels, Sweeper!, Defender! and Striker!.
Bruce’s career in numbers...
892 – Bruce has overseen just under 900 matches in his managerial career at Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Wigan, Crystal Palace, Birmingham, Sunderland, Hull City, Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday.
270 – matches Bruce was in charge of Birmingham City, his longest spell at one club as manager.
53 – the number of different players Bruce used during his spell at previous club Aston Villa.
4-1 – the result last time one of Bruce’s teams came up against Sheffield United (when Villa faced the Blades at Bramall Lane earlier this season).
2 – the number of wins and draws Bruce oversaw in four Second City derbies for Aston Villa against Birmingham City.
55 – matches Bruce was in charge of the Blades in his single season as manager in 1998/99.
0 – the number of Steel City derbies that Bruce has managed or played in
1.9 years – the average length of time that he holds a managerial position.
100 – percent unbeaten record as Owls boss so far
5 – the number of goals Bruce’s Hull City scored against Sheffield United in the 2014 FA Cup semi-final
15 – the number of wins Bruce recorded against Yorkshire teams while in charge of Hull (from 27 Yorkshire clashes in total)