Alan Biggs’ Sheffield Wednesday Column: Time to judge Steve Bruce won’t be for a season or maybe two... success any sooner will be a Brucie bonus
Visiting Chelsea in the FA Cup this weekend naturally stirs talk of when Sheffield Wednesday can finally rejoin one of their great historic rivals in the top flight.
Yet part of the club owner’s most recent address, as he strives to improve revenue streams limiting his ambition and spending, was about simply “staying in the Championship.”
Somewhere between those two is where Steve Bruce will sit on his arrival as manager. Expectation versus reality. It’s always the battleground in football; always fiercest at a club of this size.
Assuming that Bruce knows what he is walking into, as surely he must, the chairman’s statement is actually very helpful in my view. Certainly not a hindrance.
How many chairmen are so open on finances? How many bury the bad news? How many expose managers to facing the flak for everything?
Hopefully Bruce starts with an understanding of the size of his task. He should be given some latitude, tolerance and time accordingly. This is no quick fix.
Yes, some of the noises from above have seemed contradictory. Dejphon Chansiri arrived in 2015 on a declared mission of reaching the Premier League, aiming to achieve it for the club’s 150th anniversary two years later.
He gave it more than his best shot and unluckily fell just short twice.
More recently, and even now, he continues to entertain a promotion hope this season. Well, that is natural.
You have to aim high, however unrealistic, as I still believe it to be - with the promise to apologise, delightedly, if I am wrong.
Chansiri’s contrary talk of ensuring Championship survival puts this into context. Not to be mistaken for any lack of ambition.
While it has to be a minimum target, Championship football is not a prize or status to be sneered at. It is becoming increasingly competitive and also offers a richness of competition - and entertainment - that in many ways surpasses the Premier League.
Except in revenue, which is the problem for all at that level.
How to measure Bruce? Well, his squad won’t be anything like knocked into shape until the start of next season, maybe well beyond. Effectively, there’s only one window between now and then.
The short term is getting the best from what he has, with perhaps some late tinkering in this window, before the expected mass exodus of out-of-contract players in the summer.
Then there is the question of selling a genuinely good player or maybe two, which has to be faced if the money is right. If Bruce, as the professional, feels the fee matches the market value then that is the way the club should go.
Quite simply, he is far and away the most qualified football expert involved with the club. It is that straightforward.
Same for loan offers and general offloading. Pushing 40 pros is far too many.
Beyond that, it’s about using a wide network of contacts to fill the gaps - and encouraging the group of younger players promoted by the previous manager.
Bruce lives his life as a man in a hurry, much as he’s had to take time to recharge after a traumatic year in his family life.
Having managed big clubs, he’ll know talk of transition, consolidation and rebuilding doesn’t sit well with supporters whose patience is stretched already.
But that’s the reality and Chansiri has done him a favour in that respect. Besides, success does not always have to be bought. It can be built. Given time.
Consider Burnley, even Blackpool, in recent years. Also Cardiff promoted on a low budget. And there are other examples, including one uncomfortably close to home.
If I’m boring you I think it’s needed. Barring the wheels coming off, the time to judge Bruce will be not this season or maybe even next but quite possibly the one after that. Any earlier joy will - dare I say it - be something of a Brucie Bonus.
It could be a long haul. But as long as Wednesday are fighting it out in the Championship it can still be an enjoyable one.