STEVE BRUCE has vowed to repay Sheffield Wednesday’s support and patience after opening up on the family and health reasons behind his delayed arrival at the club.
The 58-year-old, named by the Owls as their new manager on January 2, took charge of training for the first time on Thursday morning.
Bruce insisted on taking a long-standing family holiday in the Caribbean after a traumatic 2018, which began with both the former Hull City manager’s parents passing away and then ended with a health scare.
Wednesday chairman Dejphon Chansiri was happy to accommodate Bruce’s wishes in order to land his main target.
“It wasn’t just a trip,” said a relaxed looking Bruce to The Yorkshire Post about a family break that included watching last week’s first cricket Test between the West Indies and England in Barbados.
“If someone had said this time a year ago that I would lose both of them in three months I would have said they were crazy. They were both okay.
It puts life into perspective. I think I have had two winters off in 40 years, it was about time I had a bit of a break. I explained that to the chairman and he was fine.Steve Bruce
“It puts life into perspective. I think I have had two winters off in 40 years, it was about time I had a bit of a break. I explained that to the chairman and he was fine.
“I told him exactly what the situation was. I had these medical procedures, I had my knee washed out, a mole (taken) off my eye.
“Physically wise I wanted to make sure I was okay.
“I had the full MOT, if you like, and everything is okay. Apart from, as always, needing to watch my weight. Then again that has been the same since I was playing and got past 30. Overall I feel fine, perfectly fine.
“But the big thing – and I have got no shame about this at all – was, when I lost my mum and my dad, I could not look after them myself because I was working (at Aston Villa).
“So, I needed to reward the people who looked after my parents and spend a bit of time with them. I promised them I would not go back to work until the summer. But I made a compromise and it has ended up being February.”
Bruce’s delayed start at Hillsborough drew criticism from BBC pundits Danny Murphy and Ruud Gullit during the build-up to Wednesday’s FA Cup fourth-round defeat at Chelsea.
Gullit suggested Bruce would have started straight away had the job offer come from Manchester United, while Murphy said: “You’re sunning yourself watching the cricket for whatever reason. It is not something any manager I have played under would have done.”
Both came in for stinging criticism from Wednesday supporters and Murphy later admitted he did not know the full facts.
Bruce was far from surprised at the criticism, but seemed keen to draw a line under the matter. He did, though, admit that his tenth managerial job may be his last in the game.
“There is no one who loves football more than me,” he added. “But I think when you get to a certain age – and next year I will be 60, which is ridiculous – there comes a time after what has just happened to me where you do have a reality check of what your life is all about.
“What I will say, though, is I want this to be for the long term. Hopefully, I can be here for two, three, four, five years and then that will be enough.
“Football is different to what it was 20 years ago. The most important thing is, do you have the same drive and enthusiasm that you had?
“The more I thought about it the more I realised I have. It was minus six-and-a-half degrees coming over the tops (from his home in Cheshire) and that is when you smile to yourself and say, ‘Are you sure?’
“But I am convinced this is right. I am convinced I have done the right thing. I hope I can be the one that takes the club back to where it wants to get to.
“This morning I had little butterflies because I had to go into a dressing room again.”
Bruce is well aware of the big challenges facing Wednesday, who were placed under a transfer embargo last summer after breaching Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.
Chansiri revealed yesterday that he had turned down a £30m offer for the Owls in the wake of him informing a fans’ forum meeting on December 20 that the club was up for sale.
“We have to address (FFP), but it did not put me off,” said Bruce, who has little or no budget for recruitment due to the need to keep within financial parameters. “I went into Hull (in 2012) and got the club up with some waifs and strays and free transfers. It is never easy, but that is what we did.
“There is no magic wand. This team nearly got there so I owe it to them to let them show me what they have got over the next three or four months.
“There are a lot out of contract. Their aim is to earn a new contract. That gives an opportunity to put a squad together capable of mounting a challenge.”
Bruce is chasing a record-breaking fifth promotion to the top flight with Wednesday. He added: “I nearly got there last May (with Aston Villa), but then got the sack four months later. That (promotion) has to be the aim. It is why I keep working on.
“I honestly hope this is my last job. After starting in Sheffield (as manager of United in 1998) and finishing at Wednesday that might be a good way to bow out.”