Alan Biggs’ Sheffield Wednesday Column: Why Owls have found right name AND right direction with appointment of Steve Bruce

It takes more than a new name on an office door to move a club back in the right direction.

Wednesday, 6th February 2019, 16:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 17:05 pm
Owls Manager Steve Bruce in his first match in charge.......Pic Steve Ellis

Sheffield Wednesday have found not only the right name but also the right direction with the appointment of Steve Bruce.

The remit of his job is what convinces this column that the Owls are in a tide-turning moment of their history.

Owls Manager Steve Bruce in his first match in charge.......Pic Steve Ellis

“Biggest appointment since Ron Atkinson,” said former Wednesday goalkeeper and manager Chris Turner, who was part of the side that Big Ron galvanised 20 years ago.

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These days - with sporting directors, agents and any number of intermediaries - it’s hard, if not impossible, for one man to have such an effect.

But when the Owls’ official media confirmed Bruce saying that “absolutely” he would have the final say on transfers, the club turned back the clock. To the days when Atkinson and, before him, Jack Charlton and Howard Wilkinson, drove S6 with their own force of will and personality.

Others subsequently have had that remit - until two foreign owners, back to back, diluted it, albeit in adopting a model favoured by many clubs.

Now the power is swinging back, as I feel it should, to the in-house football professional who ultimately runs the team and carries the judgement of supporters on his shoulders.

More credit here to Dejphon Chansiri, who is as supportive a chairman as any in the game and who immediately backed Bruce’s initial signing requirements for more pace, width and youthful energy.

The owner’s critics say he doesn’t listen. Whether he says so or not, there is evidence that he does.

As predicted here as far back as November, Chansiri radically revised his manager profile in the wake of two appointments from abroad.

This column’s signposting of Bruce pointed to Chansiri not only breaking his own mould but, in headhunting a proven British boss, acceding to the traditional manager model in this country.

It is fast going out of fashion but there is little point in summoning an operator like Bruce and maintaining overall control on transfers in or out.

Chansiri has done himself a big favour by entrusting this to someone who, as a high-achieving player and boss, knows football inside-out. To me, it’s the clincher for better times ahead.

“Crucial,” was the word applied to the importance of this when I spoke last week to another lifelong Owl of the management game, Paul Hurst, the former Grimsby, Shrewsbury and Ipswich boss.

All part of the learning process for a foreign owner who, after two good seasons and two moderate ones (so far), has been prepared to reconsider.

Not that he won’t stay close to the action or that Bruce won’t be keen to involve him at every turn - because the new boss is plainly convinced he’s working for a man who’s desperate to succeed.

In that event, the credit for Chansiri would be no less than if he had taken all the decisions himself. In fact, a great deal more and rightly so.

There are no guarantees and, as previously warned, it will take time to overhaul this top-heavy squad. 

But already, in his early dealings, Bruce has identified a lack of athleticism. Ahead will be some tough calls on expired contracts. There can be no favourites or prized possessions in such a process.

It all starts to make sense. Wednesday have too big a squad, paying out too much in wages -  and Bruce, having easily identified that, is the one liberated to do something about it. 

What matters hugely also is the unanimous goodwill Bruce carries from Wednesdayites recognising he has similar qualities to revered former managers who arrived in troubled times.

And so important that he has the power to be the master of his own - as well as the club’s - destiny.

No-one should be kidded it is likely to be anything but a long haul, as previously cautioned here. But it can be a slightly shorter haul in the right hands.