The one thing that Steve Bruce needs is the one thing that isn’t too often forthcoming in football, patience. While some would suggest the latest manager in the hotseat at Wednesday could do with funds to strengthen what many deem to be a squad devoid of genuine top six credentials, it’s time that will be highest on the wish list and rightly so.
On arrival, Bruce was greeted by a bloated squad of varying ability levels, injury and fitness concerns, profit and sustainability worries, as well as a football club which has underperformed for a good while. The job at Wednesday should in no way be underestimated, it’s a tough gig, and it’s in no way going to be a walk in the park, even for a manager of Bruce’s calibre.
Where the squad is concerned there are a number of problems for Bruce and his staff to solve. With no churn of players at the club taking place for a long time, this has led to players not only being stockpiled, but stagnating too. You need to turnover the playing staff to increase competition for places, to improve, and to generally keep players on their toes after all.
Between now and the summer there’s a need to quickly assess who will be moving forward with us and who won’t. Tough decisions will have to be made, and fast, but Bruce will make the calls which he feels are in the best interests of the club. He’s already explained that players will get a chance to prove themselves, be it in training and/or games, and this is a sensible approach in my opinion.
While everyone is entitled to their own opinion on players at the club, ultimately the one that matters the most is Steve Bruce’s, and while in football there does now seem to be a lack of trust by supporters managers, I feel it wise to back Bruce, a man with a wealth of experience in English football.
It’s become the norm in football, not just at Wednesday may I add, to see the team and substitutes announced for it to be greeted with a raft of negative responses by fans who think this player is crap or that player should be starting. You’re never going to please everyone as a football manager, but after a large section of the fan base pleaded for a manager with Championship experience to come in, there has to be a belief that he knows best.
I personally feel Bruce’s remit between now and the end of the current season will be to assess the players at the club and to stabilise the team and begin to move it in the right direction, which brings me nicely onto my next point. Performances. I don’t feel it’s wise to expect us to rip it up week in week out now Bruce is in position, and neither do I feel it’s realistic to not expect there to by multiple bumps in the road between now and the summer where performances are concerned.
While some may be quick to suggest looking at how Manchester United have been doing since “The Baby-Faced Assassin” took caretaker charge, the two clubs and the two situations are completely different. Under Jos Luhukay, Wednesday had become a team prone to conceding a lot of goals and one lacking in defensive stability. This is the first thing that needed addressing and I feel things have moved in the right direction in this respect.
Since Luhukay departed, Wednesday have managed to keep six clean sheets from nine in the Championship, with a clean sheet in each of Bruce’s three games in charge so far. Shoring up the defence, allowing familarity and understandings to develop in what was a regualrly altered defence, was the first task at hand where performances were concerned.
With a focus on this area, you could say the attacking side of our game has been watered down slightly, although we have created chances in games and been guilty of squandering them. Having the platform of a strong defence in place ensures that you should more often than not be fighting for three points, rather than going a goal or two down and trying to salvage one, or having three in hand only for two of them to be snatched away due to slack defending.
While we still need to continue working hard defensively, Bruce will now be looking at improving other areas of the team, and this ultimately means what we do in the final third in order to turn the one point into three. We’ve seen big improvements defensively, so I feel we should be optimistic that Bruce and his staff can make us more efficient offensively over the next few games too.
It’s never going to be perfect, and sometimes you need the team to dig in and grind out results, but there are positive signs and this is what we should focus on. While patience may be a word that was removed from the football dictionary a long while ago, I feel that in time, Bruce will get this right.