GARY Rowell says Sunderland’s home form ultimately proved to be Steve Bruce’s undoing.
The Roker legend (pictured) told the Echo: “I’ve seen a lot of stuff written about fans turning against him because of his Geordie roots, but, in all honesty, I think that’s nonsense.
“I don’t think the fans had a problem with him being from Newcastle, I think they had a problem with the performances and the results this year, and particularly the performances and results at home.
“You’re always going to face a tough time of it if you only win three home games in 11 months.
“The vast majority of your fans only see you at home and if they’re coming regularly and seeing you lose or fail to perform then they’re going to be unhappy and you’re going to have a problem.
“The poor home form has done him in the long term and it’s also done him in the short term with these last two home games against Fulham and Wigan.
“I think if he had won either of the games, he’d still be in a job. But failing to beat Fulham put his position under real pressure and then getting beaten by Wigan was the final straw.”
Rowell says he feels sympathy for Bruce because luck was against the Tynesider on so many occasions.
But he says the manager can have no complaints about being sacked after simply failing to produce the goods this season.
He said: “It wasn’t Bruce’s fault that he lost Darren Bent or Asamoah Gyan – Bent wanted to go and the club wasn’t prepared to break their wage structure for him; Gyan felt he had an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“But when you take that many goals out of your side – and you’ve got to factor in the loss of Danny Welbeck into that equation – you’re always going to struggle to replace their goals.
“And so many times this year Sunderland have had had games they should have won but have contrived to draw or lose.
“There are some teams who manage to turn close games into 1-0 wins, but we’ve been a club this year that too often have managed to turn close games into 1-0 defeats.
“You don’t tend to lose those games when you have a Bent or a Welbeck or a Gyan in your team when they are on form and on song.
“The problem is he hasn’t been able to keep those players and, when you haven’t got an easy source of goals in your side, teams can become anxious.
“It’s upsetting because it’s my club.
“You never like to see your manager sacked and it always means, when your manager does get sacked, that your club is struggling.
“I feel for Steve Bruce because you look at his record and he inherited a club that just stayed up the previous season and saw it to 13th place in the Premier League in his first season and 10th in his second.
“He had us going in the right direction – they were modest steps, but we were going in the right direction.
“This season, though, things have been so flat and disappointing and results, especially at home, so poor that the fans have turned against him and he has paid the price.
“Ultimately, the results have been nowhere near as good as the fans believed they had a right to expect and, when that becomes a real problem, it’s the manager who always pays the price.”