In this tribal jungle, Bruce's scalp was a matter of time

The former Sunderland manager once told Simon Turnbull he was 'black-and-white daft'. Such devotion helped seal his fate

It was impossible not to feel sorry for Steve Bruce as he conducted what always seemed likely to be his valedictory post-match press conference as Sunderland manager last Saturday. Franco Di Santo's 93rd-minute winner for Wigan had turned the vitriol on him like a tap. "You fat Geordie bastard, get out of our club." The message clearly struck the solar plexus.

"It borders on abuse," Bruce told us. "I can't help where I was born." It was tempting to point out that Sunderland's soon to be outgoing manager was actually born in Corbridge in rural Northumberland, some 20 miles west of Newcastle. Technically speaking, that makes him a Northumbrian by birth rather than a Geordie. Given the seriousness of the situation – Sunderland's American owner and chairman Ellis Short having witnessed the club's supporters turn on the manager en masse for the first time – it was not the time for levity. Having been raised on Tyneside as a proud Geordie and Newcastle United fan, Bruce's Tyneside roots were always going to be flung in his face as a big black and white negative when it came to reckoning his time on Wearside.

He knew the score, and his background was well known on Wearside, although I always resisted digging up the quotes from an interview he was kind enough to give when he was about to face Kevin Keegan's newly promoted Newcastle side as a Manchester United player at Old Trafford in August 1993. "I was absolutely black-and-white daft," Bruce said at the time. "I idolised the Newcastle team managed by Joe Harvey in the early 1970s, especially Malcolm Macdonald and Tony Green. They were my heroes. I would have loved to have been a Geordie playing in the Newcastle side, like Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne."

It was ironic while walking away from the Stadium of Light on Saturday, suspecting that Bruce's fate was sealed, to pass the bronze statue erected in honour of a Geordie (well, technically, another Northumbrian-born Geordie) who played in the Newcastle side that won the FA Cup in 1955. When Bob Stokoe took over as manager of Sunderland in November 1972, his black-and-white back story was not the kind of issue it would be today. In any case, it was all forgotten when he guided the Red and Whites to victory in the FA Cup final six months later. Sadly, these things have come to matter up here in the tribal football jungle of north-east England. I write this as someone who was born on Tyneside, a genuine Geordie, but who was brought up as a Sunderland fan (my parents are from the East Durham pit villages). Even now, when visiting St James' Park on reporting duty or as a member of the paying public, old school friends will tap me on the shoulder and shout, with intended good humour: "What are you doing here, you Mackem bastard?"

Steve Bruce might have been excused his Geordie roots a while longer on Wearside had Sunderland not been in such a state of obvious disarray since January – without a midfield of substance and with a powder-puff attack following the departure of Darren Bent, Danny Welbeck and Asamoah Gyan, and with the highly promising Connor Wickham on the injured list.

As it is, there is a vacancy for a new managerial kid down the road from the Toon. The most popular choice among Sunderland fans would be one of their own. Martin O'Neill was born and raised in Northern Ireland but confided on a visit to Wearside in his time as manager of Leicester: "I was a Sunderland fanatic as a kid because of Charlie Hurley." "King Charlie", as he is still known on Wearside, was a tough-as-teak, totemic Irish-born Sunderland centre-half and captain in the 1960s. He was voted the club's Player of the 20th Century. O'Neill used to follow Hurley's – and Sunderland's – fortunes, listening to a crackling transistor radio under the bed sheets while growing up in Kilrea.

That crackly red-and-white connection alone would count in O'Neill's favour if he were to take the manager's job at the Stadium of Light and the going ever threatened to get anything like as tough as it did for Steve Bruce.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor