Take a bow Steve Bruce

Published: Monday, 18 November 2019

I’m ahead of the Christmas rush to hand out awards - and just a little behind the quarter-stage mark in the PL season, but managers and coaches will tell you that the table starts to take shape after 12-games, so here goes.

There’s nothing happening at Liverpool I didn’t expect. I said they’d win the title - with an unbeaten start and more than a little drama already - I’m more convinced than ever that they will. The ‘Devils Club’ Evertonians call them. They believe if there’s any luck going Liverpool get it. If there are big decisions to be made, Liverpool get them. You can argue that they’ve had their fair share of both so far - but I prefer to look at it differently. I believe they’ve been doing what Champions do - finding a way. Always finding a way.

They look powerful, but more than that I detect an unshakable determination. It’s their year and they believe it.

Norwich are finding it tough. No surprise there either. Check my pre-season prediction for them and the other new boys. Villa will be fine and so will The Blades. The bonus is that both are managed by Brits. Isn’t it lovely to see a belief in British coaching returning? I’ve taken some stick on this subject, but I’ve never wavered. There isn’t a secret book that foreign coaches use and our boys are every bit as good as they are. They just needed a chance to prove it and now it’s happening.

Frank Lampard takes my bronze award for what he’s doing at Chelsea. He’s calmed a notorious dressing room. He’s blooded terrific talent and he’s got players believing in what he’s doing. I’m so pleased for him He’s a really good guy and a perfect fit at The Bridge, but he still had a huge job on.

I read a line recently suggesting that Lampard is in danger of getting us all to ‘love’ Chelsea. It’s true!

It’s silver for Brendan Rodgers. Again - check out my pre-season blog. I expected them to do well and break up the established top 6. I had them down to finish 4th and it’s even better than that at the moment.

Granted, they’ve had their fair share of VR decisions, and like Lampard, Rodgers inherited a difficult dressing room. For years I’ve referred to them as ‘Chelsea light’. They’ve seen off a few coaches, but not this time. Rodgers has got them onside. With Spurs and Arsenal both struggling don’t rule out Leicester making the top 4. Perhaps there’s even another title challenge in them?

Don’t mention Rodgers name to the green half of Glasgow, where he did a fantastic job, before controversially leaving and taking over at Leicester, although he really had no choice but to take the job when he did. Other coaches were circling and had their made their interest known - including RAFA Benitez.

I remember sharing a car back to his hotel from our beINSPORTS studios when Rodgers was with us in Qatar. This was before he took the Celtic job. He was smart enough to know that whatever he decided after being sacked at Liverpool had to be right or he was going to disappear without trace. He got it spot on. Celtic was perfect. Leicester is his way back to a big 4 job.

He might still be at Liverpool if he’d shown a little more maturity in the title season that went wrong. He didn’t have to beat Chelsea. He WANTED to beat Chelsea to show Mourinho - who he’d worked for at Chelsea - who was now master. Mourinho knew that and did a classic smash and grab - infuriated by the fact that Rodgers wouldn’t move the game by 24 hours allowing Chelsea a little more time to recover from an arduous spell. Mourinho made the call to Rodgers himself and didn’t like the answer. Deep down though I think he knows Rodgers was right to say ‘no’. It was a decision that rebounded though. Chelsea were really fired up.

Rodgers should’ve sat it and taken a point. He’d have got the six he needed after that from his last two games. They were cruising at Palace before they started chasing goals to make up for the Chelsea defeat.

Yes, a little immaturity and his ego got the better of him. And it was costly.

It’s gold for Steve Bruce - the man even Geordies wanted to fail. What a job he’s doing - proving that not only Benitez can manage that club.

Is it true? Does Bruce really have Newcastle seven points better off than at this time last season? Yes it is. And that despite a really tough start - a far more difficult start than Benitez had. The former coach says it’s not fair to compare different seasons - but he would wouldn’t he?

In the Sunday Mirror at the weekend Andy Dunn was suggesting it won’t be long before Benitez is back in the PL - at Arsenal, West Ham or Southampton. Surely not Andy? Benitez left for a ‘long term project’ in China and because Mike Ashley didn’t ‘share his ambition’. What a joke. He left for a fat salary and having done his best to create havoc for his successor. Why didn’t he leave at the end of last season? He knew he was going in May. Why wait until pre-season training had started, therefore restricting the time Bruce had to get to know his team - to plan and work the transfer market?

If I were a West Ham fan I’d be shuddering at the prospect of Benitez turning up in east London. If you thought it was bad under Big Sam you ain’t seen nothing yet guys. And how do you think Benitez would get on with Karren Brady? Yep. Me too.

Anyway, against a near impossible back ground, Bruce has been quietly working miracles. I’m disappointed that he didn’t take the League Cup more seriously, but otherwise it’s been terrific. Do you know, he might even get an assist or perhaps even a goal out of £21m Miguel Almiron before the season ends. What exactly was Benitez thinking when he paid that money to Atlanta United? I can’t think of one - can you? This verdict from ‘Whoscored.com’ on Almiron. Crossing - weak. Passing - weak. Finishing - weak.

Almiron failed to score in 54 of his 68 MLS games. Five of his 22 goals were pens. It’s 1 in 21 for his national team. He’s quick, but, other than that, what exactly does he do? Bruce will be a genius if he gets something out of him, but I really do wish both well. No-one likes to see a player struggling.

In closing - have you noticed what else my three winners have in common? Correct - they’re all British and Irish. And jockeying on the fringe in my thoughts were Chris Wilder and Dean Smith. Had it not been for some outrageously bad calls by VR Villa would be half way up the table now.

Keep it going lads - and I can’t wait for it all to get started again this weekend.