Steve Bruce’s reaction to getting back to business with a bang summed up why most of his friends believe he should keep his job.
“My staff have just said that it could only happen to me that we’d have a 3-0 win and there’s nobody here to see it,” was the genial, self-effacing response to halting Sheffield United surge up to fifth place on Sunday.
Words aimed at swaying those at St James’ Park who don’t agree with former managers like Sam Allardyce, Phil Neville and Graeme Souness that he’s a minor miracle worker the club would be mad to part with.
And Bruce believes that opinion is cutting through with sceptical supporters, who were overwhelmingly against his appointment last summer, but who now want him to be given a chance if the Saudi takeover goes through.
Before last night’s Aston Villa game he was claiming the majority of fans he meets are behind him and it’s only “certain websites” who want him out.
Mainly because he’s not seen as a Rafa Benitez but a Mike Ashley stooge who went along with the whole humiliating circus to keep the Sports Direct brand flying high.
The websites aren’t alone. There are plenty of fans who admit Bruce has exceeded their expectations but want to bin all reminders of Ashley’s reign. And who can blame them? They’ve been in a horrible limbo for 13 years and want to close the book on it.
But until the takeover goes through and the Saudis reveal who is calling the shots and the true extent of that person’s ambitions, the club and fans are still in limbo.
Will the new owners want to be challenging for the Champions League places within two seasons, and thus turbo-charge investment under an elite manager who can attract top players?
If so, that surely rules out Bruce, regardless of whether he secures a top 10 finish this season.
A managerial record which shows after 22 years and 10 clubs he has won nothing but a play-off final with Birmingham in 2002, doesn’t sound too sexy.
And it’s not as though Bruce would deserve much sympathy if he was sent on his way with gratitude plus the remaining two years of his contract paid up.
When Ashley eventually came calling last summer Bruce dumped Sheffield Wednesday despite them bending over backwards for him, holding the job open while he took time off to mourn the death of his parents.
Plus, as Neil Warnock shows, there’s always another club waiting in the wings to welcome experienced British managers, despite what their persecution complex may tell them.
Bruce’s gut feeling is if he achieves a higher position than Benitez did last season then he will have gone above and…