Solent Running (For Steve Bruce)

This rare foray into poetry was inspired by reports in the Observer that Steve Bruce has expressed an interest in the vacant Southampton manager’s position. Now, I’ve no idea if this is accurate or not-the Observer did heavily promote the Liberal Democrats as a trustworthy, progressive party circa 2010, after all-but Brucey does have form in this area.

For a published author (3 thrillers at the turn of century), Steve Bruce cuts a suitably literary figure. It’s easy to see him as the protagonist of a Booker shortlisted tragedy. As a player, he saw out the bulk of his career with one club; as a manager, he’s done the rounds of almost every lower mid-table Premiership club as well as a clutch of play-off also rand in the championship. Along the way, he’s developed a name for disloyalty which has turned him into a ruddier, novacastrian Mark McGee. In the past, I’ve been prepared to argue that hiS reputation was only partly deserved. Not infrequently, his departures were initiated by his employers and he did stay at Birmingham for longer than I managed. Also, the “8 game run of loyalty” at Wigan which keeps getting trotted out in the Observer’s Said and Done column relates to a stint as caretaker manager. He signed a short-term contract and he, you know, honoured it. No one calls Alan Shearer a traitor because he didn’t hang around at Newcastle after taking them down. So, whilst I’d hesitate to say that Brucey was more signed against than sinning, I think it’s closer than has been widely supposed. But, and this is the thing, this is my club he’s-allegedly-about to turn his back on and it’s harder to be objective when that happens.

The following poem is a distillation of my feelings. I don’t write a lot of poetry and this might prove why. Whatever you think, I feel slightly better for having done it.

At this point, I should probably acknowledge that I’m not a ‘proper’ Hull City supporter. I haven’t been to see them since 1993 and even then I didn’t pay to get in (I was personally presented the tickets by Terry Dolan after coming 2nd in the Hull Daily Mail School’s Quiz). But I did get behind them at the tail-end of the Mark Hately era when Warren Joyce saved them and was thanked by being given the brush-off in favour of Brian Little. Like most people, I was gutted when a capricious turncoat like Bruce was appointed as manager. I thought that, at best, we’d see a replication of the Huddersfield Town years followed by an unceremonious midnight flit. But, like Brian Little and Peter Taylor before him, Brucey proved me wrong. Not only was he good for the club, though, his time in Hull was good for him. He had a real chance to rebuild his reputation at a time when whatever glitter had inexplicably clung to him was beginning to rub-off. If he goes to St Mary’s, he’ll lose that. In the current climate, neither Hull not Southampton have much potential to be bigger than they are but ‘the Tigers’ (and I cringe as I type the nickname) are still on an upward trajectory and Bruce had the chance to make sure he was held responsible. At Soton, he’ll just be another boss on a conveyor belt, unable to meet unreasonable demands stemming from a time thirty-odd years ago when the club punched above their weight. I doubt he’ll even get the chance to bugger off for a better paid job before they sack him. He could have rebooted his career at Hull; if he goes to the South Coast, all that effort will go to waste.

Whatever, though, and however visceral the poem tries to be, I’ll always have great memories of that FA Cup final.


Swollen, eroded,
A little less recognisable
Each iteration,
Everytime they fish you out
Soon, only your faults will make you human,
A restless soul, you say,
Never content to settle, like dust
In one place
Others would call you a mercenary disgrace
Your wandering’s fuelled by love of money
The truth is probably somewherel in between,
Impoverishing the spirit as you enrich the flesh,
In your pursuit of the twin prizes
You’ll never get to win
You must know that by now,
Don’t you?

When you washed up
On Hessle Foreshore,
A bloated cadaver in a tracksuit,
Cast aside, cast asSunder,
No doubt, no wonder
Tarnished, Wearied, heavy limbed and smarting
We didn’t want you
Your mistakes were never ours to erase,
But you found yourselves accepted,
And you lifted us from the sediment,
Heaved us from the morass
And we had to admit,
You were a very good fit,
But then you got too big and then you went,
Pitching up, we hear on the Solent,
They won’t understand you like we did,
And soon, they’ll cast you aside,
And your wandering will resume
Never getting nearer to where you want to be


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