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Comparing England’s Depressing Managerial Options: Steve Bruce vs. Big Sam

After a week of talks with the FA, it looks like a straight fight between Steve Bruce and Sam Allardyce for the England job. Who’s more likely to lead the Three Lions to glory, then?
July 20, 2016, 5:25pm
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This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.

With England still reeling from their disastrous Euro 2016 campaign, the powers that be are desperately trying to stop the team from sinking into the murky depths. In the aftermath of their devastating Round of 16 defeat, the national side has been left rudderless, a splintered, broken flagship buffeted on the choppy seas of failure and regret. The captain of the ship, a one Roy Hodgson, has thrown himself overboard in despair, and there is no one to pilot the vessel to safety.

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Someone must offer England a guiding hand, and fast. That's where Steve Bruce and Big Sam Allardyce come in, and that's why the FA must now make a decision on who's going to steer the national team to a brighter future, or at least something marginally less shit than a major-tournament exit to Iceland.

READ MORE: Sam Allardyce Is The Manager That England Truly Deserves

Neither Brucey nor Big Sam are particularly inspiring candidates, it must be said. Whichever one of them gets the nod, it is highly unlikely to usher in a new era of international dominance for The Three Lions. Supporters are crying out for a remedy to the tedium of Hodgson's tenure and, accordingly, they have been presented with a choice between two stodgy former centre-backs, one of whom currently manages Hull City and the other of whom was cast off by West Ham for being too unimaginative.

It's all a bit depressing, really. Still, we've analysed their relative strengths and weaknesses in an attempt to figure out who's more likely to become England manager, and do at least a semi-competent job of it.

INTERVIEW SKILLS

"FOOKIN' BOOK 'IM REF" // EPA Images

Before one or the other of them can get down to business, Brucey and Big Sam will have to impress at the interview stage. Both men have already held talks with the FA and, while there may well be another round of interviews, or a workshop, or something, their ability to articulate their vision for the national team will ultimately decide who gets the job.

So who would be the better interviewee, then? Well, it's hard to imagine Big Sam would respond well to being asked to define the meaning of teamwork. "THE MEANING OF TEAMWORK?" he'd bellow, sending his interviewers' notes whirling through the air like a paper blizzard. "TEAMWORK MEANS YOU LISTEN TO BIG SAM, AND LISTEN GOOD, YOU FOOKIN' INGRATES. TAKE A STEP OUT O' LINE, AND I'LL CRUSH YOU LIKE A FOOKIN' BUG."

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Can you imagine Big Sam doing a ten-minute roleplay with Greg Dyke, or doing an extensive Powerpoint presentation on the importance of corporate synergy? Big Sam doesn't have time for this nonsense, he's too busy planning how to beat the bloody Germans with a gameplan built exclusively around winning the second ball. Big Sam is the sort of bloke who would march into the interview room, deliver a knuckle-crunching handshake, stick his gum under the formica desk and ask exactly when he'd be expected to start. Oh, and don't bother asking him his greatest weakness, because his only weaknesses are for fat rascals, Yorkshire puddings and disgustingly strong tea.

Meanwhile, Steve Bruce is incredibly personable, has the smile of a Geordie angel and possesses a voice like warm treacle being poured over a rich, suet pudding. There's no beating that when it comes to interviews, especially not when Bruce is competing with a man who's likely to chin someone for asking where he sees himself in five years.

TACTICAL ACUMEN

"If you think you're getting the England job, lad, you've got another thing coming" // EPA Images

This is a difficult one, really. While some see Bruce as the more progressive candidate tactically, it's impossible to deny the effectiveness of Big Sam. Bruce has managed to produce some decent football at Hull (and before that Sunderland and Wigan) in recent years, but he's also been relegated as recently as 2015. Allardyce has never suffered relegation from the Premier League and, despite his often rudimentary approach, his teams tend to overachieve in terms of results.

So, the question is: would we rather see England play semi-attractive football and lose, or play extremely ugly football and draw, or perhaps even win? It might upset the purists, but it has to be the latter. If Big Sam can get us to the semi-finals of the World Cup with a mix of 0-0 draws and 1-0 victories, then sacrificing the team's aesthetic integrity is a price we are willing to pay. Give us long balls, give us elbows, give us James Tomkins and David Wheater at centre-back. As long as we're grinding out decent results, we honestly couldn't care less.

MAN MANAGEMENT

England players upon hearing who their next manager is going to be // EPA Images/Peter Powell

While Allardyce is by far the more abrasive character, Steve Bruce seems to go a bit too easy on his players at times. He's got a sort of Geordie dad persona on the sidelines, quietly proud even when the lads lose, always ready to give a pat on the back and a word of encouragement, no matter the result. He's a bit too Jossy's Giants to be honest, too prone to giving his players an affectionate hair ruffle even when they've been absolutely twatted. This might explain why Bruce's teams seem to play with freedom during the early days of his tenure but, once things get difficult, often struggle to get back on track.

Allardyce is perhaps more of a motivator, in that sense. He also has considerable experience of handling difficult characters; if he managed to keep Nicolas Anelka in line at Bolton, then he's not going to have a difficult time confiscating Jack Wilshere's ciggies, or convincing Dele Alli to stop playing his Gameboy and go to bed. That said, Bruce's time as a Manchester United player gives him a certain aura of pedigree and prestige. Overall, we'll have to call it a tie when it comes to man management.

SOCIABILITY

While managers need to be able to control their players, they also need to be able to socialise with them. Team bonding is vital to a national side's success, and a manager has to be a part of the process. Players want a boss who'll crack a few jokes in the hotel lobby, someone who'll let them stay up a bit later than usual playing Kerplunk, or whatever modern footballers do to entertain themselves. They don't want a monosyllabic authoritarian who'll bark at them for the slightest indiscretion. They don't want Fabio Capello, basically.

Both Brucey and Big Sam know how to have a laugh, of course. They both look like they enjoy a couple of shandies every now and then, while Big Sam almost certainly has an exotic assortment of extremely dirty jokes. There can only be one winner in this category, however.

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Only going for the England job as it will leave weekends free to attend more weddings. pic.twitter.com/bkRhBSweyN
— SteveBruceatWeddings (@bruceatwedding) July 19, 2016

Steve Bruce is so sociable, he has an entire Twitter account dedicated to his antics at weddings. Imagine him in an ill-fitting suit, banging out 'Bohemian Rhapsody' for a couple of unsuspecting newlyweds who happen to be sharing their hotel with the England team. There he is, up on stage, jiving with the microphone stand and leaving the players in absolute stitches. There is Steve Bruce, socialising his arse off, the human embodiment of team bonding. Now, he'd like to dedicate his next song to the nice bridesmaids from Newcastle.

FOREIGN DIPLOMACY

Please don't do that to the football, Sam // PA Images

To be a successful England manager, one must respect the subtleties and nuances of foreign opposition. Unfortunately, both Brucey and Big Sam have previous when it comes to diplomatic faux pas. Steve Bruce's latest interview included an anecdote about fighting foreign policemen and Bryan Robson getting beaten up by a "big Turk", while Allardyce famously called Jurgen Klopp a "soft German" last season. You wouldn't put it past either of them to sing 'Rule Britannia' in a press conference, or to engage Joachim Löw in an extremely awkward conversation about the Second World War before a match.

Just for the no-fucks-given nature of the "soft German" comment, we'll give this round to Big Sam. He's completely undiplomatic, but he owns it to the point that it's not a weakness, but a strength.


Having compared Steve Bruce and Big Sam in those five arbitrary categories, then, we're left with a tie. Whoever ends up being England manager, we're sure they'll do a truly appalling brilliant job.

@W_F_Magee