Sheffield Wednesday: Steve Bruce on his break from football, why Wednesday, the club’s money worries and the importance of Owls fans
Throughout his much-anticipated Hillsborough inauguration, Steve Bruce oozed charm and personality.
He conducted himself impeccably after being introduced to the media as Sheffield Wednesday's new manager. Not only was Bruce all suited and booted but he also, more importantly, sounded the part. He was a smash hit.
After an extended break from the sport following his sacking by Aston Villa last October and a difficult 2018, during which both of his parents died and he also had two operations, Bruce now believes he is "physically and emotionally ready" to return to football management.
Newcastle-born Bruce inherits a Wednesday side sitting 17th in the table, 11 points clear of the relegation zone and 11 points adrift of the play-offs.
But Bruce is a serial winner. He won three Premier League titles and three FA Cups - including two doubles - with Manchester United as a player and has secured promotion to England's top flight on four occasions as a manager. His Hull City team defeated the Owls at Wembley in the Championship play-off final nearly three years ago.
"There was a really good team here in 2016 but it lost to an even better team," Bruce told The Star. "I am not being disrespectful there.
"Unfortunately, since then there has been one or two injuries to good players. Kieran Lee and (Gary) Hooper, both good players. The club has had a difficult time since the play-off final. It can be difficult to get over the disappointment.
"From afar, that seems to have been the case. Results have not been good enough for 18 months."
More than 40,000 Wednesdayites roared the Owls on at Wembley against Hull City. Their extraordinary backing left a lasting impression on Bruce.
Bruce said: "It (the fans) was one of the huge deciding factors.
"What makes a big club? History, tradition and then there is one vital thing: support. And we have got it in the bucketload and I hope I can see the days out here where we have full houses and a team to match the support. That has got to be the aim if we can possibly do it."
Bruce becomes only the second person after Danny Wilson to manage both Sheffield clubs. His first managerial job was at Wednesday's arch rivals Sheffield United in 1998.
But he elected to cross the Steel City divide and become an Owl on January 2.
"I only get them if I’ve managed across the city," he joked. "In Birmingham I’ve done it. It didn’t bother me. It was a long time ago."
Bruce delayed his start to working as Wednesday's manager due to health concerns, insisting the decision was taken with the club's blessing. He promised his family he would take a much-needed break and he was recently in the Caribbean, where he watched the England men's cricket team take on West Indies.
The four-week delay led to criticism from some, including pundits Danny Murphy and Ruud Gullit, but Bruce said he needed some time out.
"It’s caused a storm, but when I met the chairman, I told him exactly what the situation was," he said. "I had these medical procedures, I had my knee washed out, a mole off my eye. Physically wise, I wanted to make sure I was OK.
"The big thing is, and I’ve got no shame about this at all, was when I lost me mam and me dad, the main people who looked after them wasn’t myself because I was working.
"So I needed to reward them a bit and spend a bit of time with them. I promised them I wouldn’t go back to work. I made a compromise and I said I wouldn’t go back until the summer and it’s ended up being February."
It will be no easy task for Bruce to bring the good times back to Wednesday. The Owls are under pressure to balance the books and comply with Profitability and Sustainability regulations.
Bruce, who has hinted the Wednesday job could be his last in management, said: "I'm not worried about it (the financial situation).
"I never thought I’d be in a situation at Aston Villa (last year) where we weren’t going to get paid on a Friday. That’s how bad it was. We were masters of the bluff.
"After being there four months, I was told I had to raise £25million, which we did, and still mount a challenge, which we did.
"After we lost the play-off final, you realised the state the club was in. It was difficult when your chief exec gets the sack, then your director of football. You think you’re next. I genuinely wish them the best of luck, but it was difficult.
"We had huge financial problems for months, that was the top and bottom of it.
"There are lots of clubs in that situation in the Championship.
“If you’ve spent a few quid and haven’t quite managed to make it and you haven’t got a parachute payment then you’re in trouble.
“The FFP situation is difficult to understand and to implement so we’ve got to address that but it didn’t put me off. I went into Hull and we got up with some waifs and strays and free transfers. It’s never easy but that’s what we did.
"We have got a big summer ahead in terms of players being out of contract.
"In the Championship, if you haven't got parachute payments you have got to cut your cloth and I have never been afraid to do that."
Asked if he is confident of keeping hold of his best players, Bruce said: "I'm very, very confident of doing that.
"I don't think he (the chairman) ever wants to sell players but sometimes you have to sell one if that enables you to balance the books a little bit and bring a couple of players in.
"Sometimes you have make those difficult managerial decisions but sometimes they have to be made."