Alan Biggs’ Sheffield Wednesday Column: Why Steve Bruce’s first game in charge of Owls could put his Hillsborough job into perspective
Enter Steve Bruce.
All the ignorant nonsense surrounding his arrival dealt with. On to more practical things. Cue any links with his first opponents as Sheffield Wednesday boss.
Well, there’s the fact that his son, Alex, played at Ipswich Town for four years. They were also the rival club for Steve early in his own career at Norwich City.
But, well beyond this, there is something deeply symbolic about this opening fixture for Wednesday’s new manager.
Ipswich are bottom of the Championship. It is 17 years since they were last in the top flight.
Here, even more graphically than at Hillsborough, is an example of how a well supported club can run aground in an attempt to scale former heights. And how it is becoming ever more difficult to do so in competition with a host of similar-sized outfits.
For our Owls news and opinion on Twitter follow hereFor Bruce, read two comparable veterans of management, Mick McCarthy and now Paul Lambert, who, either side of Paul Hurst’s short reign, have attempted to drive the Tractor Boys back up the slope.
Wednesday have been estranged from the Premier League two years longer than Ipswich, exiting in 2000.
But that’s to put Bruce’s task into perspective, not to say it can’t be done. There’s optimism at a new start and so there should be. For openers, the Owls are not in tangible danger of dropping to League One.
And for all the honest warnings from above about transfer embargoes, the hope created by a new manager appointment takes some dampening. Especially one of this stature.
If the Owls squad has needed freshening for some time, well, at least a fresh look is being taken of it. That usually means changes whether a squad is stale or not.
For all the clean slate offered to every player - which is absolutely the right way to go - new ideas make some upheaval inevitable.
For more news from Hillsborough click hereThat said, it is more important than normal for Bruce to tap into the existing group, certainly in the short term. He’s good at building relationships in both dressing rooms and boardrooms.
Major acquisitions are off limits for the time being and, as I write, there would seem to have been no incoming bids in this window to ease the squeeze.
It will be the summer, and the ending of a raft of contracts, before the decks can be cleared for a rebuild.
In the meantime, let’s see how far an injection of new ideas, promisingly begun by Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence, can carry this team. There is certainly some quality in it; never a doubt on that score.
That’s despite some easily identifiable areas for improvement - pace, width, defensive stability.
And whatever the result at Portman Road, Wednesday are in better shape than Ipswich right now to go forward again.