Having recently taken over struggling Aston Villa, Steve Bruce is preparing today to take on Newcastle and Rafa Benitez, a man he used to regularly manage against in the Premier League. And he’s expecting a harsh welcome from Newcastle supporters when the match kicks off tonight at 8PM GMT.
Harsh like the time he took his side to Anfield and faced the chants and jeers of the Kop. And then, rather fortuitously and mostly due to the fact it was raining at the time, turned those jeers into cheers. All part of the job, it seems, for any manager who spends long enough in the game to be remembered.
“I’ve had fathead, Ive had potatohead at West Brom,” Bruce reflected as he took a break from preparing his side for their match against Newcastle. “At Man City it’s the Elephant man. It was funny at Liverpool one year, just after You’ll Never Walk Alone they were singing ‘Steve Bruce has got a big fat head.’”
Banter, abuse, stick. Call it what you will, it’s a reality of life in football for players and managers who have any real success—or even just longevity, sometimes—and usually the best way through it is to play along. Which is what Bruce did next that day at Anfield, aided perhaps by the weather at the time.
“It was raining that day, and after 20 years of being through there I thought, ‘I’m going to put my hood up.’ There was a mass ovation ‘round the place,” Bruce added. “I thought, ‘shit, I should have done that ten years ago!’”
While Aston Villa are set to be stuck at least one more season in the Championship, Newcastle with Benitez in charge are heavy favourites for promotion sat two points off league leaders Brighton and Hove Albion and five clear of Huddersfield Town. The top two clubs earn automatic promotion.