Steve Bruce, Promotion & Derby County – By Russell Dempsey

Posted on March 8, 2007 
Filed Under Articles By Russell

Karren Brady has just come out in public, declaring her undying love (tee hee) for Wor Brucey.
It made me think.

I’ve been sitting firmly in the Pro-Bruce camp since before we were relegated. I’m still firmly of the opinion Bruce was let down badly by the players. And that includes Kenny Cunningham. I was at the Norwich and Liverpool humiliations, and have still backed Bruce 100%.

However, at the beginning of the season, I made the rather bold (for me) statement that Bruce could go with my blessing (as though it’s needed) if we didn’t get promoted this season. I think most fans, for or against Bruce would suggest the same. I think all pro-Brucers and some anti-Brucers would want him to stay if we got to the Prem, too.

This is the crux of my post. What if we miss out on promotion on goal difference? Lose the Play-Off Final 1-0 to a penalty EVERYONE concedes wasn’t deserved? Such is the thin line between success and failure. It made me realise promotion isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of Bruce’s campaign.

I think the Board have done a tremendous job of ’sticking with their man’ and rightly so, but would they be so brave if we didn’t go up? I was convinced Bruce would walk if we missed out on promotion, but would he be so willing if he felt we were HUGELY unlucky not to be enjoying Premiership football with him??

I think we’ve hit good form at the moment (much better than Derby or West Brom, only really outdone by Wolves and Sunderland.) Well, Sunderland couldn’t beat us, and I don’t think Wolves will either. I’m hoping for a 0-0 draw between Wolves and the Baggies this weekend, too.

This game against Derby really COULD decide the future of the Club… and the Boss. If we lose, I don’t think we’ll be able to go up as Champions. If we can’t beat Derby, our run-in against the likes of Wolves, Preston, Coventry will look a lot more difficult. If we do beat Derby, we’ll feel we can beat any team we’re up against for the rest of the season. Beat Derby, and Bruce will stay, lose against them and he’ll go, I can almost sense it.

I don’t mean go now, but I can’t see he’ll be with us beyond the end of the season. If he takes us up automatically though, I think it will be a job well done. Credit where credit is due, he really will have succeeded in a Football Manager 2007 fan’s dream, constructed a new team from the ashes of a previous manager’s arson attempt, and taken them to the Promised Land, only this time, it was Steve Bruce who had suspicious quantities of empty petrol cans in his boot…

I think we have the very young makings of a successful Premiership side, but if we don’t go up this season, Muamba and Bendtner will head back to Arsenal, McSheffrey may be made a Premiership offer he can’t refuse, N’Gotty and Jaidi may well call it quits. Julian Gray is out of contract and may well not be willing to stick around after the lack of starts he’s had. Mehdi Nafti isn’t the tower of strength he used to be. Martin Taylor and Stephen Clemence have proven themselves this season, but do they have the heart for another year’s Championship grind? If Bruce stays, the team may well keep its heart, but if a new manager is brought in, I’d have thought they’d want their own players in.

Anyone ever wonder why Martin O’Neill keeps all his Celtic annuals?

All I know is the claims ‘no-one has a divine right to automatic promotion’ are right, and – even if we finish third – there’s no guarantee we’ll win the three games necessary for Playoff victory. The truth is, I haven’t got the guts to put money on us going up this season, but I wouldn’t bet against us either. If we win against Derby, I think the belief will return and the fans will be firmly behind Bruce and the boys. If we lose against them, I think the fans and the team will be unsettled, and the results will follow suit. That’s how important this game is, and how irritating is it that it will be on Sky? A guaranteed poor turn-out will ensue, the fans who do go will be the ones who’ll feel most dejected if we don’t put on a performance ‘why didn’t I watch this on TV?’ and the team won’t have their desired ‘twelfth man’.

I think it will be Derby and Sunderland or Sunderland and Blues in the top two. The play off places will be West Brom, Wolves, Blues/Derby and Preston.

As for Blues v Derby, I can stick my neck out and say we’ll beat them 1-0, but it won’t be a great game of football. I hope the Blues prove me wrong, but only in scoring more goals. If we can only beat them, we’ll be on top of the table with a game in hand over them, and the psychological advantage from doubling them. They should be tired on Friday, after having beaten Norwich (why Norwich couldn’t keep their lead only Delia Smith must know) and we should be in good spirit after our resilient win against Cardiff. Come on you Blues!

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