Isaac Hayden was asked what went wrong on Saturday, after the 3-1 defeat to newly-promoted Norwich, and he replied, “I am disappointed and can’t really put my finger on where things went wrong. But there was quite a lot that went wrong.”
That’s not a great statement to make if you want to support your new manager.
Bruce was acclaimed as a strong man manager when he took over, with former keeper Steve Harper hailing his skills in an interview with the Telegraph. “There are managers out there – some I’ve played for – who would just pin the team on the wall, who were so cold and clinical, they never explained anything to you,” Harper said. “Steve is not like that.”
That doesn’t match up to puzzling statements made by Bruce after the Norwich defeat.
In one he said that he couldn’t fault the players’ desire. As quoted in the Chronicle, Bruce said, “I would not question the desire. I just think we got caught up in their first day [first home game]. I can’t question anybody’s desire. I don’t think they went out there and done badly.”
However, in an interview in the Telegraph he accused his side of dialing in their display. “I can’t forgive a performance where basically you don’t put your boots on. Unfortunately, it has happened already in the second game in. But I’ll do all I can to make sure that changes.”
Which one is it?
This isn’t the first time Bruce has put out confusing messages.
Talking after the first game of the season against Arsenal, Bruce came out with two different explanations for the Jetro Willems substitution, when the player initially moved into central midfield before being moved out to the left.
“It was just a lack of communication with him,” Bruce said immediately after the game. “We wanted to put Matt Ritchie inside and play him in his position, and he only played there for two minutes until we got the information down to him about where we wanted him to play. It was quickly sorted out, not a problem.”
However, later in the week he came out with a very different version of events.
Steve Bruce said he put Jetro Willems on in midfield, where he played last season. Realised that was "unfair on him", and "switched him very quickly" to his preferred position on the left. #nufc
— Miles Starforth (@milesstarforth) August 16, 2019
Clear communication and consistent messaging are key skills for any manager and Bruce seems unable to do even that at the moment. It needs to change fast.