Sheffield Wednesday: Stephen Clemence reveals the secret to Steve Bruce's managerial success

If anyone should know what makes Owls boss Steve Bruce tick, it is Stephen Clemence.

By Dom Howson
Sunday, 07 July, 2019, 12:31

The pair go a long way back.

Clemence has worked under the promotion specialist as a player and coach since the early noughties.

Stephen Clemence on pre-season training camp in Portugal

Since calling time on his 13-year playing career in 2010, Clemence has worked with Bruce as a coach at Sunderland, Hull City, Aston Villa and now Sheffield Wednesday.

Clemence and Bruce are currently putting the Owls' squad through their paces in Portugal on a 10-day training camp.

When the new season kicks off next month, Bruce will be chasing a record-breaking fifth promotion to the top flight.

On the secret to Bruce's managerial success, Clemence told The Star: "Obviously, he has an eye for a player. You've got to have good players to be successful. You can't just do with it anybody.

Stephen Clemence and Steve Bruce

"I think all the players know what they are doing going into a game so that helps. There are no grey areas. They know the demands on them.

"The gaffer expects you to have a right go whether that is defending or attacking. He wants the team to work hard to make sure the ball doesn't go in our net and we then have certain structures that we use to score at the other end.

"He is also a great motivator. There are sometimes when I'm in the dressing room and I think I wouldn't mind still playing myself after some of the things he has said.

"There are lots of ingredients he has got but he definitely commands that respect about how he goes about his business."

Barry Bannan and Joey Pelupessy take a quick breather in Portugal

Assistant manager Steve Agnew and Clemence were both on Bruce's coaching staff at Hull and Villa. They are Bruce's trusted lieutenants and know him inside out.

"Aggers and I know our roles," said first-team coach Clemence. "If the gaffer has given the players a bit of a telling off, they don't need a telling off as well from Aggers and I.

"We don't see it as as our jobs to be too hard on them. We have to get around them and remind them of what they are good at.

"What we try to do is give them confidence and try and encourage them to express themselves.

Stephen Clemence and Steve Agnew barking out instructions

"We want them to go out and show no fear when they play. That's what our roles are really.

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"If the gaffer needs to get after them a little bit more and to get them to work a bit harder, yeah we can tell them, but not in an aggressive way."

Agnew and Clemence found themselves in the highly unusual situation of holding down the fort just before Christmas. Bruce delayed starting work as Wednesday manager due to health reasons and a long-standing commitment to take his family to Barbados for the first Test between England and the West Indies following the death last year of his parents. It meant Agnew and Clemence took control of first-team affairs in his absence.

Clemence, the son of former England, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Ray, said: "It was a strange situation for Aggers and I not having the gaffer with us at the start.

"It was different going into work and not having the gaffer there, but Aggers and I have got a great relationship.

"Aggers is very experienced so it was fine for that month and we were on the phone speaking to to the gaffer every day. He was giving us his ideas as well and thankfully it went okay.

Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence

"We went to Hull and that was the only blip. We got battered 3-0 and we were thinking 'Jesus Christ, what are we going to do here?'

"Thankfully, we picked up a few results after that and we didn't leave things in too bad a shape for the gaffer coming in.

"But I have to say Bully (Lee Bullen), Weavs (Nicky Weaver) and the rest of the staff helped us a great deal when we came in. They have all been great to work with and the players have been fantastic."

The three Steve's: Bruce, Agnew and Clemence, turned around Wednesday's fortunes in the second half of last season. The Owls suffered just four league defeats and briefly flirted with a late promotion tilt before finishing in 12th position.

Clemence said: "It makes your Saturday evenings a lot better when you don't lose too often!

"The players were fantastic (last season). They had a right go at everything we have asked of them. They worked their socks off for each other, which is one thing that the manager does demand. If you don't run around for Steve Bruce, you are not going to be in the team.

"He does put that strain on you as a player when he wants you to run them extra yards and work hard and to be a team player and that's what we did.

"We have got some talented players in the group and if you get the players all pulling in the same direction you are going to get results and thankfully we did that.

"But that has gone now and we are looking forward to next season.

"There are no easy games in all my experience of being in the Championship as a player or as a coach. I know everyone says it but it is true.

"If you go to the teams that have come up from League One to the teams that have come down from the Premier League, they are all as tough as each other."

Owls first-team coach Stephen Clemence
Left to right: Stephen Clemence, Steve Agnew and Steve Bruce