'Geordie roots' prove no problem for Bruce

Sunderland's new man determined to become a 'local hero' on Wearside
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The Independent Football

Steve Bruce was formally introduced as the new manager of Sunderland last night and immediately dealt head on with "The Geordie Thing", the sizeable, if parochial, issue of his Newcastle roots and his well-known support for the team 12 miles from the Stadium of Light.

"I know what I was born and bred, and it would be wrong of me to say anything different," Bruce said. "But I'm here and I'm proud to be Sunderland manager."

There were other similar comments but that encapsulated Bruce's view and promisingly for the 48-year-old, there has been a largely positive reaction on Wearside to his appointment. Bruce said that anecdotally he had received the same over the past 24 hours. As he posed for photographs beside the statue of Bob Stokoe outside the stadium, a passer-by came up, wished him well and complained about "my dog's bloody arthritis". Bruce took that as a vote of confidence.

The reason Bruce was posing there was that Stokoe was a Geordie who played for Newcastle but who went on to become Sunderland's most celebrated post-war manager. "He became a local hero, let's hope he rubs off," Bruce said. Bruce cut short his holiday in Portugal to meet chairman Niall Quinn on Monday night and after further talks on Tuesday, a three-year contract was signed yesterday. He was away with his father and mother and he said his Newcastle-supporting father Joe's advice was: "Fill your boots, son."

That was the tone last night and it says something of Bruce's enthusiasm that he has already said he hopes that his stay on Wearside will be a long one. "After two years I hope Niall's knocking down the door to offer me an extension," he said. "This is what I always wanted, a big club, a big challenge, a club with huge ambition. All the bits are here, the training ground, the stadium, we have some good players here, I am so pleased to have been the No 1 target. What we need is a team to represent us, take us forward and I accept a poor pass or a loss of form but I always demand hard graft."

That was music to Quinn's ears. Along with Sunderland's fans the chairman has had to watch an expensive squad survive relegation by the skin of their teeth. "We have been brittle at times, what we want is a Sunderland team that is determined, tough, that represents the Steve Bruce philosophy," Quinn said.

Bruce now has owner Ellis Short's millions to use in the market and he said he will be able to "target players I've never been able to before." He thanked the Wigan owner Dave Whelan but there are likely to be approaches made to his former club for the likes of Lee Cattermole.

That hard-graft philosophy meant that Bruce recovered from being rejected by Sunderland in 1976. "I was devastated. I thought I was off to be a plumber in the shipyard. They're not there any more, so I'd be out of a job now."