Last on MOTD: Manager!

SUNDERLAND manager Steve Bruce, as any fule kno with access to his Wikipedia page, has published three novels – Sweeper! Defender! and Striker!

(I should point out that I have a vested interest in Bruce’s Wikipedia page, as at the time of writing, I appear on it as footnote 88. Although that may have changed if you are reading this in the future.)

Each novel deal with the trials and tribulations of fictional football manager Steve Barnes, with Sweeper! described by the Independent as “surprisingly punchy and pacy, although the plot is essentially ludicrous”.

I’m presuming that the novels were conceived as a trilogy, given the similarity in their titles, although it’s just as possible that Bruce might have run out of ideas after three books.

A shame if so, as I would have liked to see a fourth book, Substitute! In my mind, this would have been a Beckett-style meditation on the lives of two footballers who struggle to keep themselves amused as they sit on the bench week after week, waiting in vain to be brought on.

Sample dialogue:
Substitute 1: Shall we go and warm up?
Substitute 2: Yes, let’s warm up.
(Neither man moves.)
Substitute 2: Is there any point to us warming up?
Substitute 1: Of course there is. In case we are needed.
Substitute 2: Needed by who?
Substitute 1: By the manager, I suppose.
Substitute 2: But we are never needed by the manager.
Substitute 1: But we might be.
Substitute 2: When?
Substitute 1: I don’t know.
(Neither man moves.)
Substitute 1: Shall we warm up, then?
Substitute 2: Yes, let’s warm up.

But the novel that Bruce must really be itching to write would be called Owner!

Last night’s final match: West Ham 1 Sunderland 0
Commentator: John Motson

Bruce left Birmingham City for Wigan in November 2007 after a fall-out with then co-chairman David Gold over a new contract. It was a very public, acrimonious split, with Bruce making it pretty clear that he had no time for Gold. Within six months, Birmingham had been relegated to the Championship, although they’re doing all right now.

These days, while Bruce is at Sunderland, Gold is at West Ham, embroiled in another relegation battle, with another manager facing an uncertain future. Gianfranco Zola was shaken enough by the recent home defeat against Stoke to state publicly that he was considering his position. Things have brightened up since.

Yesterday’s match at Upton Park saw Bruce and Gold on opposite sides, although West Ham’s new co-owner was in conciliatory mood before kick-off, stating: “I will hold out my hand to him. It was a paltry amount to fall out over given the fabulous years we had together.”

Write a novel about it, Steve. You know you want to.

Gold and Zola came out of the match smiling thanks to a second-half winner from Brazilian striker Ilan. It was his third goal since arriving in February from Saint Etienne, although he’s still got nothing on Sarah Cracknell.

The most entertaining moment of the match came right at the end, though, when Hammers striker Guillermo Franco controlled the ball with his arm before firing past Craig Gordon, and sparked perhaps the longest celebration ever for a goal which turns out to have been disallowed. I wouldn’t be surprised if some West Ham fans left the ground thinking the final score was 2-0.

For Bruce, it was the first time this season that he has appeared last on Match of the Day. It was quite a common occurrence last season, when his Wigan side were on last nine times, beaten to the Gubbometer crown by Fulham only on Gubba difference.

(Indeed, I reckon there was at least one occasion last season where the BBC put Wigan last on MOTD specifically because Bruce went on about it so much.)

This season, it’s been a case of so near, yet so far for Bruce when it comes to the Gubbometer. Before yesterday, his team had been on next-to-last seven times, without ever securing the tail-end slot. But with only two Premier League games yesterday – and the other one featuring five goals – there was no way he was going to be denied this time.

Perhaps all of this will inspire Bruce to write a novel called Gubbometer! If you’re interested, Steve, I’m open to negotiations.


1. Blackburn: 7 (GD: 1. 2L: 3.)
2. West Ham: 7 (GD: 1. 2L: 2.)
3=. Portsmouth: 7 (GD: 1. 2L: 1.)
3=. Everton: 7 (GD: 1. 2L: 1.)
5. Stoke: 7 (GD: 0. 2L: 3.)
6. Bolton: 5 (GD: 0. 2L: 7.)
7. Wigan: 5 (GD: 0. 2L: 3.)
8. Hull: 4 (GD: 0. 2L: 8.)
9. Aston Villa: 4 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
10. Wolves: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 7.)
11. Fulham: 3 (GD: 0. 2L: 5.)
12. Gubba: 2 (GD: 2. 2L: 3.)
13=. Birmingham: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 7.)
13=. Burnley: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 7.)
15. Tottenham: 2 (GD: 0. 2L: 3.)
16. Sunderland: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 7.)
17. Arsenal: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
18. Liverpool: 1 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)
19. Manchester United: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 2.)
20. Chelsea: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 1.)
21. Manchester City: 0 (GD: 0. 2L: 0.)

GD = Gubba difference
2L = On second last (Last night’s penultimate match was: Hull 1 Burnley 4. Which was also the first match.)

(NB. Teams will receive one point for every time they appear last on MOTD. Appearances on MOTD2 are not included. Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference – the number of times a team is on last with Tony Gubba commentating. Teams still level will then be separated by the number of times they appear second last on MOTD.)


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