AS the saying goes, blood runs thicker than water.
In the autumn of a managerial career which has taken him to Yorkshire’s south, east and west alongside the West Midlands, Lancashire, London and Wearside, you sense that Steve Bruce could not look himself in the mirror in the morning if he passed up the chance of managing his hometown club Newcastle United at this stage of his life.
His club. His family’s club. His wife’s family’s club even.
The club he also watched from the terraces, but never strode out for despite lining up for the likes of Newcastle Boys, Northumberland Boys and Wallsend Boys with countless others who similarly dreamed of donning the black and white and emulating the likes of Milburn, MacDonald, Moncur and co.
If Bruce is guilty of a footballing crime upon his likely return to Tyneside, it is a crime of passion - should he, as most expect, swap Hillsborough for the Gallowgate.Leon Wobschall
If Bruce is guilty of a footballing crime upon his likely return to Tyneside, it is a crime of passion - should he, as most expect, swap Hillsborough for the Gallowgate.
Deep down, there will be regret at the circumstances of his departure ‘back home’ from one half of the Steel City.
This coming at the expense of a club in Sheffield Wednesday who provided him with a pick-you-up after a fraught year in his personal and professional life and showed understanding and compassion in allowing him to start work at Wednesday almost a month after he was named as manager - due to a pre-planned break from football.
It is not something that many employers would have sanctioned. Yet a responsible one would have.
But Bruce’s chief sense of remorse is likely to be a heart-felt and private one. Namely that his late parents, Joe and Sheenagh, who passed away within the space of three months in 2018 and were lifelong Newcastle supporters, will not be present as he strides out as manager at St James’s Park for the first time.
At the age of 58, Bruce was entitled to think that his ‘last big one’ was at Sheffield Wednesday, but in his case, the most alluring stripes are always coloured black and white as opposed to blue and white.
Bruce’s 18-match tenure with the Owls - which will equal that of Peter Eustace as the shortest managerial spell ever at Hillsborough once he seals his move to Tyneside - will ultimately be viewed as a bit of a whirlwind romance that teased and flirted with the emotions of Wednesdayites, who were eyeing a much longer-term affair.
There will be hurt at his departure, something Bruce would be the first to appreciate. But maybe a spot of understanding as well.
The legacy that he will bequeath to his successor is a sound one. Players were stimulated and re-energised by his arrival and the mood was much transformed at the training ground at Middlewood Road as senior players re-engaged and found their mojo again.
A club was getting its soul and identity back after a couple of barren years.
That should surely preclude the need for left-field selections when talk turns to Bruce’s successor as it inevitably will in the coming days.
A fellow Championship senior statesman of the ilk of someone like Chris Hughton would represent a natural choice for many Wednesdayites.
Another manager who knows the allure of Newcastle well.