Bruce reveals Sir Bobby recommended him for job
STEVE BRUCE has warmed up for the return of tomorrow's Tyne-Wear derby by revealing the inspiration behind his appointment as Sunderland manager was former Newcastle United boss Sir Bobby Robson. Bruce, born and raised on the banks of the Tyne, claims never to have witnessed a duel between the fierce North-East rivals. But he will be looking to guide Sunderland to their first victory at St James' Park for a decade. Had events and scenarios turned out differently, the Black Cats' Corbridge-born boss could quite easily have been sitting in the home dugout instead of Chris Hughton. Bruce has been overlooked on one occasion and twice rejected the opportunity to take the Magpies reins in the last six years. But, courtesy of Robson's glowing reference to Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn, Bruce finds himself at the helm of the black and whites' staunchest foes and desperate to deliver for those on Wearside. I spoke to Bobby at length about coming to Sunderland, said Bruce. He was ill and there were times during my time in management that I would ring him for advice. The sad thing was that when I did come up here he passed away soon afterwards. Lady Elsie, Bobby's wife, still comes, regularly, and is always welcome. I know Sir Bobby wrote a fantastic letter to Niall, which I thank him for. Bobby wrote to say I am the man for the job. I was not aware of that until Niall revealed it to me probably because I gave him my house in Portugal every year! I miss him, I'm sure everyone else does, and occasions like this would have been great had he been around. Bruce turned down the chance to join Newcastle when Robson left in August 2004, while there was also an opportunity during the former England manager's difficult times in charge. Understandably, he declined. I turned it down because it was not right, it was years ago. Those are the facts. I turned it down twice, said Bruce. Instead I took a hell of a risk in going to Wigan with eight points. When the Chinese were going into Birmingham, I went to Wigan and did OK, thank the Lord. I am a big believer in what will be and it wasn't right at the time. It was tough but I was driving away and it wasn't right. Bruce has had no distractions in the build-up to tomorrow's trip to Tyneside, having guided Sunderland to a seven-match unbeaten run in the Premier League. And while he is under pressure to deliver in his first derby, he is well aware of the situation his opposite number Hughton has found himself in this week. Newcastle were forced to issue a statement outlining an intention to renegotiate Hughton's contract, which expires in June, at the end of the year after increased claims that he was going to be replaced. Bruce said: I have a fantastic job and I am very lucky. I have had difficult ones where there is no stability. The greatest compliment I can give to this club is that from the commercial, the media, ticket office, everyone wants the club to do well. Everyone is pushing in the right direction and in the same way. I have a chairman who knows what football is about. It is not like any other industry where you can buy something that will make you better. I am enjoying this job immensely. I hope I can keep carrying on by doing a decent enough job. A Newcastle defeat would fuel claims that Hughton's position is under threat, but Bruce insists he can't afford to think about that. Nor does he want to concentrate on fans' aims of their respective clubs finishing higher than their rivals. We have no God-given right to finish higher than Newcastle, but that is our aim in many respects, said Bruce. Mine is not just to finish above Newcastle. Rather than be a yo-yo club it is to give this squad and club a bit more stability. I want to finish in the top ten. That is where I want to take the club, I am not really interested in where Newcastle finish. I just care about where we finish. I believe we are better this year than we were last year. We have got Britain's costliest goalkeeper on the bench, four players who reached the quarter-finals at the World Cup and Bolo Zenden, who does a very good job for us, all on our bench. We have the nucleus of a very good squad.
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