Sunderland have finally parted ways with Steve Bruce after a dreadful opening to a season which see the Black Cats hovering just two points above the relegation zone - not the kind of start that was expected from a team which many tipped to challenge for Europe this season. With a haul of just 11 points from 13 matches and Sunderland still trapped in the tailspin that's characterised the club since the sale of Darren Bent last January, Bruce couldn't have expected to keep his job for much longer, and, well, now he's gone, making him the first casualty from the league managerial ranks this season.
There were plenty of signs that Sunderland's struggles were more luck-based than anything else. By goal differential, the club is average - their GD of zero would put them ahead of Aston Villa and Everton, who are in eighth and ninth in the real table respectively, let alone the likes of Queens Park Rangers and Swansea. However, at some point you can't just wave a string of poor results (like losing at home to Wigan Athletic after failing to beat Fulham) away, and the blame most naturally falls on the manager.This has been a difficult time for everyone at Sunderland and is not a situation that any of us envisaged or expected to be in.
Sunderland announced the news via a statement issued by chairman Ellis Short on the club's official website:
It is my job as chairman to act in the best interests of our football club at all times and I can assure everyone that this is not a decision that I have taken lightly. Sadly results this season have simply not been good enough and I feel the time is right to make a change.
Steve has acted with honesty and integrity throughout, which is testament to the character and commitment he has shown during his time at Sunderland.
I would like to personally place on record my thanks to him for his significant contribution to our football club over the past two and a half years and everyone here at Sunderland naturally wishes him the very best for the future.
Will this help? Well, Sunderland are underachieving and will probably have gotten back to normal whether or not Bruce stayed, so we should expect a big improvement for the club between now and the end of the season. If that does happen, you can bet your bottom dollar that many will point to this moment as the ship started righting itself. And who are we to disagree with that narrative?
For more on the Steve Bruce firing and all things Sunderland, visit the Roker Report.