SUNDERLAND legend Gary Bennett fears fan-power has made Steve Bruce’s position untenable and he believes the manager’s departure is now inevitable.
Bennett witnessed first-hand the abuse thrown Bruce’s way in the wake of Saturday’s defeat against Wigan and believes that that depth of hostility is difficult for anyone to come back from.
Bruce reported for work at the Academy of Light as normal yesterday but Bennett expects that both manager and club will already have begun to consider their options ahead of this weekend’s trip to Wolves.
“Steve Bruce is under incredible pressure and, to be honest, it’s a no-win situation for him,” said former skipper Bennett, now part of the BBC Radio Newcastle commentary team covering the Black Cats.
“I’m sorry to say it but I think it’s inevitable he will go - the question is when and how.
“If he continues and wins a few games, it will take the sting out of it but as soon as he loses a couple on the trot the barracking will be back.
“I was hosting the phone-in after the Wigan game and there was a lot of hostility from the fans.
“With good results he could win some of those fans over, but the problem is that you can never win everyone over.
“And the minority always have the loudest voices.
“There are two weeks before the next home game and I would think that both Steve Bruce and the club will be looking at the situation.
“The fans’ reaction crossed the line from footballing matters to the personal and, from the manager’s point of view, he must be asking himself if he needs to put himself and his family through this.”
Fans are more upset with Bruce for the uninspiring style of play and the poorness of results this season – especially at home, rather than the manager’s Tyneside roots.
But Bennett believes that when push comes to shove, the fact that Bruce hails from Newcastle has not helped his position.
Bennett said: “It’s very hard for a Geordie to succeed in charge at Sunderland – or vice-versa.
“Bob Stokoe was a Geordie who won the FA Cup with Sunderland and became a hero, but that was nearly 40 years ago and I just don’t think that would be possible now.
“In those days, supporters went to see Sunderland at home one week and Newcastle the next.
“The rivalry is so much more fierce now and as soon as things start to go wrong, the manager’s background is the first thing the fans will point to.”
Although Sunderland finished 10th under Bruce last season – their third highest finish in 55 years – they have endured an awful start to the current campaign, picking up just 11 points from 13 games to leave them just two points above the relegation zone.
Sunderland’s desperately poor home form since the turn of the year has also been a major contributing factor to the unhappiness on the terraces with the Black Cats winning just three of their 17 league games at the Stadium of Light in 2011 and losing at home to rivals Newcastle back in August.
Bennett said: “I do feel for Bruce because he has been unfortunate.
“The club has struggled with massive injury problems and that certainly hasn’t helped him.
“Also he has put his trust in the players he has brought in and some of them need to take a look at themselves.
“But, ultimately, the manager always takes responsibility and gets the lion’s share of the blame when things go wrong.”