STEVE BRUCE will have a major influence on Sheffield Wednesday this month, despite not officially arriving as manager until February 1, according to assistant Steve Agnew.
Bruce, sacked by Aston Villa in early October, was this week named as Jos Luhukay’s successor at Hillsborough.
Personal reasons prevented the 58-year-old from taking the reins immediately with The Yorkshire Post understanding the contractual terms of his departure from Villa Park are the most pertinent factor behind the delay.
But although the former Hull City chief may not physically be in Sheffield until next month, Agnew is certain Bruce will be in regular contact with a coaching staff that also includes fellow new arrival Stephen Clemence and Lee Bullen.
“Steve is hard working,” said Agnew, also part of Bruce’s backroom staff at Hull and Villa. “He is determined and, yes, he will be on the phone. I know he will
“I have no doubt he will be closer than people think. Steve is here on February 1. All we are doing really is relaying his messages across to the players.”
Bruce met the Owls’ squad for the first time on Wednesday, stressing how this was a fresh start for everyone at the club.
“I think the players know who the manager is and they know when he is coming in,” added Agnew, when asked if such an unusual situation ran the risk of allowing some in the squad to take it easy for a few weeks.
“All we do is relay the same messages as to how the players need to perform and what Steve demands. They fully understand that.
“Listen, we all know it is different. But I have known Steve a long time and I think we have to respect his personal and private life.”
Today brings the first chance for those players to impress their new manager-in-waiting as Wednesday host Luton Town in the FA Cup third round.
Bullen, whose four games in temporary charge yielded eight points, will have an input into team selection after agreeing to remain part of the new-look first-team coaching set-up.
Agnew and Clemence, both in the crowd for the recent victories over Preston North End and Middlesbrough, are also understood to have discussed the likely make-up of the team with Bruce as the Owls look to avoid an upset in the lunchtime kick-off.
“Steve starts on February 1 and that gives us three or four weeks to have a look at the squad and group of players,” added Agnew, who revealed striker Fernando Forestieri could return to training next week.
“When (Bruce) comes in, and with all the conversations that we have had, I am sure he will hit the ground running and will be looking forward to it.
“He has got the bit between his teeth and, believe me, once he is in here on February 1 he will be doing everything he can to make sure we bring success to Sheffield Wednesday.
“Steve had a couple of offers after leaving Villa. But he always said to me that the next job had to be the right club. Obviously, Steve has been appointed here now and he is absolutely delighted because he feels the club matches his ambition.”
Bruce will arrive at Hillsborough with four promotions to the Premier League on a managerial CV that includes reaching last season’s Championship play-off final.
He also took Hull to the Cup final in 2014, a run that Agnew – part of the coaching staff that day as Arsenal beat the East Yorkshire club 3-2 after extra-time – admits will come to mind today at Hillsborough.
“The Cup has been diluted in terms of the bigger clubs having so many games in terms of the Champions League and Europa League,” added the former Barnsley midfielder. “I get that.
“But, equally, speaking to the players this week I got the sense, ‘Why can’t you go on a Cup run?’
“If you get kind draws along the way then you can end up at Wembley in a semi-final or final. That is the position we found ourselves in a few years ago at Hull.
“We got all the way to the final, beating Sheffield United in the semi-final.
“We went on to play Arsenal in the final at Wembley. It was a fantastic day.
“You have to be there to describe it, with the emotions building up to the game and all that. We were 2-0 up after 10 minutes at Wembley and could have gone 3-0 up. Then the game would have been over.
“We took them to extra-time and (Aaron) Ramsey scored the winner in extra-time. But it was a fantastic day and it is a fantastic competition to be involved in.
“The players are looking forward to the game. Seeing what I have seen from the players, I think they are up for it.
“They fancy a Cup tie with a good crowd and atmosphere at Hillsborough.
“I think it will be an exciting and difficult game, but one that we hope we can progress into the next round.
“Whether it is the league or the Cup, it is all about winning football matches.”
Winnall’s Cup joy: Page 4.