By some accounts, Sunderland should have been relegated this season. They didn’t, and with Ellis Short due to complete a full buy-out of the north-east club, the Black Cats are looking for a manager to take them to the ‘next level’, whatever that means.
While the press has hopped from the impossible appointment of Frank Rijkaard (waiting for Chelsea or Milan, pending Ancelotti’s fate) to flirting with the idea of bringing back Steve McClaren (staying with FC Twente) and Martin Jol (now going to Ajax) to even tempting Gordon Strachan to join the show (now taking a break from football), one name has stayed the bookies’ favourite – Steve Bruce.
Bruce has done a good job at Wigan finishing the season in 11th place, and when you compare that with the plight of clubs like Middlesbrough and Newcastle his achievements become all the more notable. There’s always the idea that a manager that has gotten a club to punch above it’s weight on a tight budget should do wonders with a big budget, but that’s not always the case.
Managing ‘expensive’ players – those coming in with reputations and high wages – is a different ball game altogether. Not to say that Bruce isn’t cut out for it, but simply that he hasn’t proven himself in that arena as yet.
Reports suggest that Sunderland may have to pay between £1m to £3m to buy Bruce’s contract out. If he goes to Sunderland, we can be sure of two things – one, that Sunderland will perform better than this season (not just by buying the right players but also by playing more as a team) and two, that Wigan will face a massive struggle to stay up next season. An inspirational manager with an history at the club can alone give you 6-10 points, which can mean the difference between relegation and mid-table safety.
As things stand, and if Sunderland’s interested in Bruce is real, then they might as well be trying to get Wigan relegated next season.