Alan Biggs’ Sheffield Wednesday Column: Steve Bruce needs time at Owls - not fans who blow with the wind
Steve Bruce was no sooner through the door than he was asking for “time” at Sheffield Wednesday, time to revive a big vessel with a wide turning circle.
It’s sadly indicative of the modern game that he felt this even needed to be said. But, after his torrid experience at Aston Villa, I doubt this was aimed at his employer.
My instinct is that Bruce has a supportive chairman who will back him to the limit of what’s possible, financially and emotionally.
What he doesn’t need - and this is true of every manager at every club - is that element of supporters (once without a voice but now disproportionately loud) who blow with the wind.
While no manager could have had a more resounding welcome than Bruce, he will know from long experience that football is very fickle.
It’s encouraging then to see many supporters taking their cue from the new boss by using various platforms to caution against this.
The likelihood is there are going to be a fair few squalls before Wednesday are sailing in the right direction.
Everyone, not least Bruce himself, would love to see the Owls make a late push for the play-offs. But it’s a pipe dream, a distraction best forgotten. In reality, he’s better off knowing that quickly. Which is the way I reckon most supporters see it.
New manager bounce - often irrelevant in the longer term - has been difficult to gauge in this case. Other than in the uplift in mood around the club.
The actual turning point of the season was the four-match unbeaten run under caretaker boss Lee Bullen - in advance of the structured implementation of team Bruce - that headed off sudden relegation fears.
Not that the dressing room hasn’t responded positively to a fresh approach led by one of the game’s most naturally adept man-managers.
Ultimately, though, it’s about the strength and balance of the squad. It’s sorely lacking.
I doubt any regular Wednesday watcher ever rated this as a top six team. Top ten has been this column’s marker almost from the start; still attainable.
Anything below, as has been threatened, would be under-achieving; anything above, the reverse of that.
And it is no bad thing for Bruce to see his new club’s true colours, albeit that a big job may look even bigger to him than it did at the outset. While unbeaten in his four matches, all of these have been against sides battling relegation.
The fact that a top heavy squad could not be thinned in the last window is proving more problematic than it looked at the time.
Yes, it’s giving the new boss a protracted period to judge with an open mind every player, including the ten out of contract in the summer. But many, or most, will have to go.
While early season was top heavy in another direction - with former head coach Jos Luhukay plunging in too many young players at one time - it’s important for the Owls to open up space for the best of that batch to develop.
Jordan Thorniley is one to take his chance, Matt Penney and Ash Baker look to have what it takes to be others. There may be more, besides the two young keepers pushing behind Keiren Westwood’s very impressive return to the team.
As it stands, Wednesday don’t have enough pace, creativity and devil in the side to harness an enormous pool of experienced strikers.
With the defence looking a little more settled, and the keeping position particularly strong, wide midfield is where Wednesday don’t appear to have enough penetration and options.
So much to be done and nothing that happens against Swansea at Hillsborough this Saturday will change that. Or the likelihood that Bruce will need well beyond the next window to get to grips with it.