STEVE Bruce wants to lure Sunderland chief scout Pop Robson to Hull City, along with reserve team coaches Keith Bertschin and Stephen Clemence.
The Echo broke the news last week that the former Black Cats’ boss was hoping to take Bertschin and Clemence to the KC Stadium in the wake of his appointment as the Tigers’ manager earlier this month.
But it has emerged that he is also hoping to recruit Robson – a superb servant to the club down the years, on and off the pitch, whose latest success was playing a vital role in bringing Young Player of the Season James McClean to Wearside last summer.
Bertschin, Clemence and Robson were all Bruce appointments at Sunderland, but while the former two are likely to link up with the Tynesider at Hull, Robson could be tougher to dislodge with his strong North East roots.
The 66-year-old left his job in Chelsea’s scouting set-up last year to return for a FIFTH spell at his hometown club – three as a player and two on the coaching staff.
The Sunderland-born striker started his professional career with Newcastle in the 1960s and went on to become a big star at West Ham but also played for Sunderland between 1974-76, 1979-1981 and 1983-84.
He was a prolific scorer throughout a long career but also tasted success when he moved into coaching and eventually scouting.
As part of Manchester United’s youth set-up, he worked to bring through the likes of Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and David Beckham, before Peter Reid brought him in to head up Sunderland’s own youth operation in 1995 – a post he filled for five years.
Bruce brought him back to the club last year in a scouting role and one of Robson’s first moves was to push through the move for unknown Derry City winger McClean as well as helping oversee the arrival of former Chelsea youth-teamer Billy Knott.
Bruce’s interest in Robson adds another unpredictable element to a close season which is likely to see change in Sunderland’s backroom staff, as much as the first-team squad.
All managers like to bring in their own staff and Bruce has a reputation more than most for taking his with him wherever he goes.
But O’Neill, too, likes to rely on tried and trusted colleagues and when Bruce, his assistant Eric Black and goalkeeping coach Nigel Spink left the Stadium of Light last December, the new manager brought in his own first-team coach Steve Walford, goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh and fitness coach Jim Henry, all of whom have worked with him in the past at Aston Villa and Celtic.
His long-time assistant and right-hand man John Robertson chose not to join at that stage, although O’Neill has not ruled out his old Nottingham Forest teammate signing up in the future.
If Bertschin, Clemence and Robson do depart, O’Neill will need to bring in replacements and could turn to the likes of former Forest duo Ian Storey-Moore – who was chief scout at Villa under the Irishman – and Liam O’Kane, both of whom have worked with him in the past.