If you’d asked me a fortnight ago I’d have never guessed that Steve Bruce would be our next manager. Some of that would have been down to the history between he and a chairman who bears grudges like Peter Risdale buys (or, at least, bought) tropical fish, but mostly because the man in question was contracted to another club. Go on, how many of you thought that Latics would bring in a manager if they had to pay compensation?
What do we know, eh? Not only have they paid for Steve Bruce’s service, they’ve reportedly paid what amounts to a British record. £3 million pounds could buy you… a… well whatever you wanted in real life, in football it would stretch to in international footballer with a guarantee of an ‘is he crap or is he just settling in?’ debate. In that regard Bruce could prove to be one of Latics’ most important signings and if he keeps us up then the £3 million fee will seen like small fry.
Money is an important consideration here. There’s no hiding from the fact that Dave Whelan’s approach to Premier League life has been typified by the accusations that he is doing it on the cheap. Such theories aren’t without evidence, primarily this summer’s net transfer spend and an apparent one in, one out policy on signings. Set against Whelan’s long standing reputation for prudence, it’s no wonder that fingers have been pointed in his direction.
However, these theories have nearly always been countered with a suspicion that Paul Jewell was hamstrung as much by his own policies as the chairman’s. After all it was the manager that told up he liked to work with a small squad and he that laid the blame for a lack of quality signings at the door of the club’s reputation. The first being the root of many of the problems we’ve faced since our first January in the top flight, the second the root of the falling out of love between fans and manager that have brought us where we are.
Bruce’s appointment is likely to take the lid off both of these theories. The frustration over his contract negotiations this summer were reportedly multiplied by the restrictions placed on his transfer budget, he was ‘only’ given £7.5m to spend. A quick trawl through his transfer dealings suggests a preference for shopping at Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool over chancing it in the bargain basement. Ok, so he may have had his eye on some our more misguided stars, but at the same time they were the ones that we spent money on.
In all it seems as if he’s the sort of manager who, when offered a transfer kitty, will look to spend it. Whelan has laid £15m on the table and presumably the new manager has asked for assurances about it. Whether or not it’s there we can expect Bruce to try to spend it. His success, or otherwise, will go a long way to proving what the club’s ambitions actually are.
* Apologies for the title, but we couldn’t be the only site in the world that hasn’t gone with a Play your cards right pun, could we?
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