Newcastle United fans’ treatment of Steve Bruce endemic of growing problem in football - Sue Smith

It was sad to hear Steve Bruce talking about how he might not manage a football team again after he left Newcastle United.

I hope not because it would be a real pity if he finished on such a low note and the game will be poorer without his experience.

I do not know him but it is noticeable how many former players speak so highly of him as a coach and a man-manager.

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Managing the club he supported as a boy should have been one of the best experiences of his life, but the abuse he was subjected to at St James’ Park was disgraceful.

Time's up: Departed Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce.

Barnsley’s Markus Schopp and Hull City’s Grant McCann both had their own fans calling for them to be sacked in midweek and while I have no problem with supporters of any club letting the board know they want a change of manager, I just hope they do not cross the line.

I actually do not think it was fair to keep Bruce on for last week’s game against Tottenham Hotspur when the club needed a fresh start. Were the new owners trying to be nice to him by allowing him his 1,000th game as a manager? He had to stand in front of all those supporters booing him and chanting for him to go, and as a boyhood fan, it probably hurt even more.

I am pleased for him that he has gone. As someone who went to Manchester United as a player and had managed Sunderland, it was always going to be difficult to replace a manager as popular as Rafa Benitez was there.

Even some of his press conferences were a difficult watch.

Hull's Grant McCann feels the pressure. ( Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Working in the media, I understand people have a job to do asking difficult questions and I am glad it was not me.

A lot of Newcastle fans had wanted a new manager for a long time but there was no need for a lot of the personal abuse.

You wonder if people were face to face with him how they would be. I just hope now he can spend some time with his family and relax away from the stresses of football management.

I would love to see him back at a club where the fans love him. On Wednesday, Hull fans were making their pitch for it to be theirs again.

But Bruce is not the person we should feel most sorry for. His son, former Leeds United, Hull, Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday defender Alex, has spoken about how difficult it has been for the family to see and hear things said about his dad.

McCann talked yesterday about fans messaging his teenage son on Instagram. That should be completely off limits.

I really felt for Bruce’s wife, Janet. If it had been my husband, I would have wanted him to walk away because I am sure there will have been times when he was going home and not being the same Steve. But when you are in a relationship you just want to support your partner in their choices and by all accounts she has always done that.

Some have said the only reason Bruce did not walk out was because he was waiting for a pay-out but I find that hard to believe. We have known since his playing days what a fighter he is and he will have thought he could turn it around. Self-belief when things are not going well is what marks out top sports people.

McCann will be thinking the same at Hull because if not, he should not be there.

It is not just managers. It applies to players having a hard time with their form.

Last season, Sheffield United’s John Fleck suffered a broken back and kept it to himself, some have had the long-term effects of Covid, many more have difficult things going on in their private lives. All we see is a player on a football pitch not performing.

Some fans will say if they were not performing in their job, they would get sacked but if they were going through some of the things these players are, I would really hope they had a good boss who would consider that.

Pundits and commentators also get horrendous abuse – and not just us women.

If people could see the harm they were doing to people and their families maybe this constant barrage of criticism would stop.

I am not saying people should not have an opinion and it is fine if theirs is different to mine.

But personal abuse is just wrong because these are human beings like the rest of us with families who will suffer, too. We should never lose sight of that, no matter how angry our team makes us.