Alan Biggs At Large: Why Steve Bruce could be handed an opportunity he can’t refuse
Must admit I didn’t think it was possible. Still might not be.
Admission, too, that I’ve never thought Sheffield Wednesday had promotion pedigree this season. Still might not have.
Tenth was this column’s best bet. Around where they are now, in fact.
But tell you what, beat Blackburn at Hillsborough on Saturday and the new look to Steve Bruce’s old-look side would make them serious claimants to sixth place.
Form and momentum at this stage of the season is powerful stuff.
Did Bruce think this was possible when he walked through the door? I doubt it. Every mention of the top six has had him suggesting through body language that he was only prepared to talk it up to keep fans happy and the season alive.
Does he think Wednesday would actually be ready to go up? I doubt that even more. He’s been planning a whole raft of changes, building a recruitment team and preparing to radically streamline an oversized squad.
But one thing he won’t do is turn down an opportunity. If it’s there you have to take it because you can’t be sure when the next one will arrive. And so, whether anyone around S6 can believe it or not, the focus has to be on seizing that sudden chance.
In a column of confessions, I’d plead guilty also to a charge of under-estimating the impact this man could make, much as your correspondent is a long-term admirer who flagged up – and pushed for – Bruce’s appointment well in advance.
Unbeaten in nine games (10 in all by the club) is simply an outstanding start.
Nothing of what Bruce has done is rocket science.
It reminds me – but only slightly – of Dave Jones reaping, in part, the benefit of Gary Megson’s work back in the League One promotion romp of 2012.
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Round pegs in round holes, consistent team selection and continuity.
Again, let’s not forget that Lee Bullen, undefeated as caretaker, virtually picked this team in a season-turning spell.
Nine clean sheets in 15 matches goes beyond the new boss arriving.
But Bruce, as a formidable man-manager, has built on it, demanding more hunger to win the ball higher up the pitch and then getting the ball forward more quickly.
Almost to a man, players have turned in their best performances of the season. Coaches Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence, good cops to Bruce’s occasional bad (he can be when warranted) have clearly played their part.
Above all, it’s the respect for the man at the top that has pulled the club together – right through to a recognition (hopefully) that he commands transfers in and out.
Aston Villa, following Stoke away, is Bruce’s next home match.
Can you imagine the juices flowing for that one?
Managers never let on what they feel against former clubs. But the victim of a harsh sacking will certainly have personal reasons for extra motivation in that one.
“It’s not that bad there, is it?” Bruce asked a friend as Wednesday floundered and he considered their offer. He has grasped a chance to make it good; very good indeed.
And much better than anyone can have expected.