As the name Steve Bruce pops into my head, I don’t think of a sacked manager or a prospective Wolverhampton Wanderers manager either. I think of Sheffield Wednesday back in 92/93 – how we won us the game and you could say effectively the title with two goals in stoppage time.
I wasn’t even born when this game was played but it still provides many Goosebumps.
We see Brucey as a former stalwart at the club. A hard hitting, committed captain, who lifted titles and partnered Pally in one of United’s best ever central defensive partnerships – Dolly and Daisy as they were known. So seeing as the Champions head to Carrow Road this Sunday, I’d like to profile a man that player for both ‘green and gold’ clubs.
Stephen Roger Bruce was born in 1960 in a part of the North East of England called Northumberland. His father was a local but his mother had Irish roots, growing up in Northern Ireland.
Bruce like so many other hopeful youngsters, found it difficult to get signed by a club. He was turned down by Newcastle and Sunderland amongst others and came very close to quitting in his efforts altogether. Steve was on the verge of a career in the docks, when Gillingham came in and saved him.
He was a regular at Priestfield Stadium making over 200 appearances in his five year spell and averaging a goal every six games – A quite healthy amount for a centre – half. Brucey made such an impression that he was voted into Gillingham’s hall of fame in 2009.
In 1984 began the connection. Norwich snapped Bruce up for a fee in the region of 125,000. And after a dodgy debut against Liverpool, he began to prove money well spent. In his first season he scored a League Cup Semi Final winner against arch rivals Ipswich and then proceeded to give a Man of the Match performance in the final as he picked up his first piece of silverware. Bruce was Norwich’s player of the year too, but even his stellar performances couldn’t keep the Canaries above the drop zone.
However, he played every game the following season as Norwich went straight back up. His leadership qualities were blatantly obvious as he was rewarded with the club captaincy for the 86/87 season.
In December 1987, Bruce was finally snapped up by Manchester United for a fee of 825,000 and went on to become close to an ever present at Old Trafford.
United finished second in the league in his first season, but there was still a lot to do in Fergie’s massive rebuilding process. Ferguson signed Gary Pallister for 2.3 million to partner Bruce and not long after, the club reaped the rewards.
Manchester United won the FA Cup in 1990, the Uefa Cup Winners Cup in ’91 and their first ever League Cup in ’92, defeating Crystal Palace, Barcelona and Nottingham Forrest respectively. Bruce playing an integral role in each success and could have had a goal in the European Final, only for Mark Hughes to snatch it before it crossed the line. Nobody would have been surprised if Bruce had scored, because he had 19 goals already that season! A prolific goal scorer from the back.
He captained the Reds in the Rumbelows Cup Final and that was a sign of things to come.
The club went from strength to strength and so did he. Bruce captained United for most of the 92/93 season and lifted the Premier League title jointly with club legend Bryan Robson, after United beat Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford. There was even a party in his house the night before to celebrate the club becoming English champions for the first time in 26 long years. May I mention Sheffield Wednesday stoppage-time headers again?
The same happened again in 1994, with Bruce and United adding FA Cup success to another Title. The following season was not as successful as Man United finished runners up in both competitions.
Bruce played 39 games in his final season at Manchester United, but was much more bit-part than previously. This was best conveyed when he was left out of the cup final team that defeated Liverpool because of a niggle. After 424 appearances and 51 goals, Steve’s time was up at United and he went on to play for Birmingham and Sheffield United before hanging up his boots and pursuing a managerial career.
The one glitch in his illustrious career is how he somehow never got capped for his country. And former England manager Bobby Robson said at a later date, that he regretted it: Bobby Robson came up to me and said ‘I should have capped you’ – Little consolation for Bruce.
If you would like to understand Steve’s wonderful, witty and warm attitude, I would implore on you to watch the captains log videos from the early nineties. A true Manchester United legend that (excuse the cliché) wore his heart on his sleeve.
Bruce V Sheffield Wednesday.
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