Why Steve got the hump...
‘SILLY EXCUSES’BREAK BONDS
WAS Steve Bruce right to criticise Ross McCormack so savagely in public? The Aston Villa boss certainly pulled no punches.
“In my opinion Ross is not fit enough to play,,” said Bruce, who revealed that the £12m forward had missed training “numerous times”, the latest after claiming the electric gates on his house were broken.
He has now ordered McCormack to train with the Under-23s and says he won’t play for the firstteam again until his attitude improves.
Managers do hang players out to dry. In a lot of cases, it’s a deliberate tactic used to make players leave the club.
Gordon Strachan did it to me at Celtic. I was perfectly fit but I just wasn’t in his plans. He made me train with the kids, made me come in at different times of the day.
He announced in front of the whole squad that I was the only one not going on a pre-season tour of America. There was nothing to stop him telling me on the way home, but it was his way of making me feel like s***. It worked too – I left.
But Steve Bruce is probably one of the best man-managers out there. He’s been in the business for almost two decades and I’ve never heard one story about him ostracising players or making them train with the kids.
I heard a story from his time at Sunderland when two or three of the players complained that the hotel wasn’t up to scratch.
Most managers would have told them to get on with it but Steve looked at their rooms, agreed they weren’t good enough and personally booked them another hotel.
He looks after his players, and that kind of thing is why so few people have a bad word to say about him. For him to take such drastic action, I can only assume he’s completely lost respect for Ross.
On the one hand, that’s about professionalism, about staying fit. I don’t know Ross personally but you can see from his physique that he’s not a natural athlete. I was exactly the same.
At Celtic, I remember a player called Steven Pearson. Skinny as a rake, nothing on him. He’d go to Vegas on his holidays, eat and drink all summer, not do a step of running and come back in preseason six pounds lighter.
I’d be eating like a rabbit, breaking my neck to keep fit and I’d step on the scales a pound overweight.
Some people always have to battle against their genetic makeup and, unfortunately, I think Ross is that kind of player.
Nevertheless, when you’re on an extraordinary amount of money you shouldn’t be unfit in January – regardless of your body shape or lack of game time. Match fitness, maybe. General fitness, no excuse.
That will have angered Steve but not as much as the stories. That is the fundamental problem. There are things that go on behind closed doors that we don’t know about and Ross may have personal problems. But don’t go making up silly stories about gates.
I’ve been in these situations before, particularly at Bristol Rovers where players would come up with feeble excuses. Everybody knew they were just hung over from the night before.
The manager was an explayer, he wasn’t born yesterday. It’s like a pupil lying to an old teacher – they’ve heard every excuse under the sun and it annoys them to be treated so disrespectfully.
But if you sit down and say ‘Look gaffer, I’ve got an issue, I’ve problems with my wife, I’m struggling with an addiction’, then all of a sudden the picture changes.
The manager will tell the players and you’ll be given time and understanding. The club will try to keep things out of the public eye.
By resorting to silly excuses, you break the bonds or trust that are crucial between player and manager and they are so hard to get back.
That said, I’d never say never. Injuries and suspensions could give a route back. If the fitness coach says ‘Oh, Ross came in this afternoon on his day off and did a bit of extra work’ the manager will take notice. But if Steve doesn’t get that kind of reaction, it’s probably game over for Ross at Villa Park.
UNDER-FIRE: Aston Villa’s Ross McCormack
FURIOUS: Steve Bruce