Steve Bruce has been announced as new Sunderland manager after the North East club finally agreed a compensation package with Wigan and personal terms with Bruce himself.
The delay in concluding the deal was attributable to Bruce’s demand for a profitable ‘Image Rights’ package, it is rumoured. Bruce’s resemblance to former Robot Wars hero Shunt has proven very profitable during and since the BBC 2 shows run, with spin off t-shirts and lunch boxes selling well to petrolheads the world over.
Bruce will replace former manager Ricky Sbragia who resigned shortly after he had managed to keep the Wearsiders out of the drop zone (a Robot Wars hazard), despite losing four of the last five games.
As he passes a tearful Roberto Mancini, who apparently thought just ‘showing up’ would have bagged him the job, and enters his new office, there will be a briefcase crammed with around £60m of Ellis Short’s money, money which has been earmarked for summer transfers and money which is undoubtedly the most contributing factor in his decision to swap the North West for the North East. Wigan will never have that sort of cash available, not until they are taken over by their very own oil rich, PhD wielding Arabian gentleman at least.
Bruce, who has signed a 3 year contract, described his new role as “the perfect job at the perfect time” adding “this is what I’ve always wanted, a big club”. Sunderland, while clearly have a bigger fan base and stadium, did finish five places below Wigan last season, indicating Bruce believes his new clubs financial muscle will allow him to go out and make serious improvements to the current playing staff.
Indeed he may be tempted to return to the JJB and take the likes of Antonio Valencia, Maynor Figueroa and Paul Scharner back with him to The Stadium of Light. Maybe even Titus Bramble. Or maybe not.
Bruce, a (former) Newcastle fan, will find his first challenge and arguably most difficult will be to win over the Sunderland fans, who wont be thrilled their new manager is a Geordie. He quickly made light of the issue, wryly stating “I hope I can do as well as Bob Stokoe” as he was unveiled by Niall Quinn. Stokoe, a Sunderland legend, led the Black Cats to FA Cup glory in 1973, having previously given 10 years playing service to Newcastle.
Of course, this appointment leaves the Wigan hotseat vacant. It only took the name ‘Roberto’ to be mentioned in the gossip columns for Mancini to speed off in his Ferrari in the vague direction of Dave Whelan’s house, intent on offering his managerial services to the Latics chairman. Imagine his horror when he is informed it is Swansea City boss Roberto Martinez that is wanted. The spaniard, who played for Wigan for 6 years, is the bookmakers favourite to get the job.