THE first job Ellis Short undertook in his new role as chairman of Sunderland Football Club last week was to make a private phone call to Steve Bruce, assuring the manager his job was safe.
The U.S. owner had already made it clear behind closed doors earlier this season that he was happy with the manager’s work – if not recent results – as Bruce moved into his third year at the club.
But after seeing a welter of unsettling headlines last week speculating on the manager’s future after Niall Quinn stepped down as chairman and Short took over the role, the owner rang Bruce again to tell him to ignore the claims.
The Black Cats’ disappointing start to the season has led several national newspapers to suggest Bruce’s job is in jeopardy.
But reports suggesting he is in danger of being sacked – and claims ex-Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill is being lined up to replace him – are not true.
Bruce has revealed he spoke to Short last week in the wake of Sunderland’s 2-2 draw with West Brom and the American billionaire reiterated his support.
“The owner rang me last week to tell me my job is safe,” he said.
“He rang up to say he’d been reading about how ruthless he was supposed to be, but he told me he knows what I have done over the last couple of years in terms of turning the club round and he appreciates it.
“He told me not to take any notice of what people are saying, just to get my head down and just win a few games.”
The fact that Short rang Bruce personally, rather than publicly giving the manager the dreaded vote of confidence, says a lot about the belief in what Bruce has done and is trying to do at the Stadium of Light.
And Bruce himself knows that though he is convinced he is on the right track in the long-term, he could do with a couple of good results in the short-term to settle nerves.
The Black Cats go into tomorrow’s game at Arsenal having picked up just six points from their first seven games, but Bruce said: “I’m more and more certain I have the nucleus of a very good team here now.
“It will only need the addition of a top quality player here and a top quality player there over the course of time to keep it improving and going forwrd.
“Results have not been great for us so far, but it remains early days and we need to stick at it and keep developing and improving the squad we’ve got because it has the potential to do well for us this season.”