MANAGER Steve Bruce believes Sheffield Wednesday can benefit from the lessons he learned when watching England’s cricketers at close quarters in the Caribbean.
Bruce enjoyed a winning start to his reign at the weekend courtesy of a stoppage-time minute winner by Lucas Joao at Ipswich Town.
With February including meetings with three of the Championship’s bottom-five clubs plus mid-table Swansea City the hope around S6 is that Bruce’s arrival, delayed for personal reasons, can instigate a long overdue charge up the table.
The new Wednesday boss, for his part, wants to repay the patience and support shown him by the Steel City club’s supporters as he fulfilled a long-standing commitment to take his family to Barbados for the first Test between England and the West Indies following the death last year of his parents.
While on the idyllic island, Bruce spent a couple of days with the England camp as Joe Root’s men prepared for a Test that was subsequently lost by a mammoth 381 runs.
“It is good to look at different sports,” said Bruce when asked about last month’s trip by The Yorkshire Post. “I met Paul Farbrace, the (assistant) coach. Of course they did not have the best of times.
“But I found it intriguing studying their preparation or how Joe Root dealt with leaving Stuart Broad out. It all interested me.
“You are never too old to learn. Mind, maybe I was the jinx. We were 50-5 at lunch when I watched England v Pakistan in Dubai.”
England’s crushing defeat in Antigua last weekend suggests the problems afflicting our cricketers run deeper than the presence of a former Manchester United captain in the stand.
An inability to dig in when the opposition bowlers are on top is one, as is no one seeming to know what the best XI is or the most effective batting order.
Bruce is only a few days into his own stay at Hillsborough so can be forgiven for still getting to grips with a squad that has under-performed horribly for the past 18 months.
The 58-year-old did arrive having worked with a handful of players previously, including George Boyd when at Hull City, Keiren Westwood with Sunderland and Josh Onomah last season at Aston Villa.
“He did really well for me at Villa last year,” said Bruce about a midfielder who made 33 appearances as Villa went all the way to the Championship play-off final only to lose to Fulham.
“I watched him in training on my first day (last Thursday) and it reminded me what a good player he is.
“I also had ‘Westy’ at Sunderland when he was younger. Obviously there was a time when he was not playing this season. It is not for me to comment on what has happened in the past.
“People can dissect me and what I did wrong at Aston Villa or whatever, but a little bit of experience has helped the situation along the way.
“I do believe that we have two young goalkeepers (Cameron Dawson and Joe Wildsmith) below him who are very, very good goalkeepers. That is always good to have.
“There is also George Boyd, who I worked with at Hull. If there is a better professional out there than George Boyd then I have yet to see him in 21 odd years (as a manager).
“He is a wonderful pro who we nicked from Peterborough for £50,000 or whatever it was. It is fair to say we need a few more of them.”
Westwood and Boyd both started at Portman Road, while Onomah came off the bench midway through the second half.
Also included in the starting XI for the first time since November was Fernando Forestieri, who had previously been troubled by a hamstring problem.
Asked who excited him most in the Owls’ squad on agreeing to take the job at the start of last month, Bruce added: “It would be wrong to pick out one, but I have always thought Forestieri is a real good player.
“It was good to see him back at Ipswich. I thought he showed glimpses of what a good player he is. It will be interesting to see how he is and if we can keep him fit.
“We have got some good players. (Barry) Bannan, (Adam) Reach, (Steven) Fletcher and all around them are some very good players.
“But for some reason the squad has been under performing for a couple of years and that is what I have got to try and address.”
Bruce’s arrival at Hillsborough means he should pass the 1,000 games mark as a manager around midway through next season.
“The stattos will know for definite, but I think I was 12 short of 1,000 games as a player and now 30 or 40 short as a manager,” he says. “That is a lot of Saturdays.
“I was delighted to be back (at Ipswich) and I am delighted to be given this chance.
“Everyone has been great with me. We were comfortable, apart from our finishing. Overall, though, 1-0 away from home was a pleasing start.”