Steve Bruce’s final game in charge of Newcastle – a 3-2 defeat by Tottenham – was his 1,000th match as a managerWest Bromwich Albion have appointed former Newcastle boss Steve Bruce as their new manager on an 18-month deal.
Ex-Aston Villa, Hull, Sunderland and Birmingham boss Bruce left Premier League Newcastle in October, soon after their Saudi Arabia-backed takeover.
He takes charge of a Baggies side who started the Championship season well, but have since slumped to sixth place.
Bruce, who began his managerial career at Sheffield United in 1998 and has also been in charge at Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic (twice), Crystal Palace and Sheffield Wednesday, has extensive experience in English football’s second tier, having twice won promotion to the Premier League with both Birmingham City and Hull City.
He brings with him his long-time assistant Stephen Clemence, Steve Agnew, who has been part of his backroom team since his Villa days, and his son Alex Bruce as coach, to supplement James Morrison and Gary Walsh who were already part of the Albion coaching staff.
Having become the first appointment made by new Albion chief executive Ron Gourlay, Bruce said he did not anticipate such a quick return to management after leaving Newcastle.
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to manage a club that has such great history and tradition,” said Bruce, whose first game will be a trip to Sheffield United on 9 February.
“It is a club I obviously know well from my time in the Midlands, and I am already relishing the challenge of taking it forward.
“I did not envisage I would return to management this quickly, but once I got the phone call from Ron, I knew I could not resist the challenge of getting this club back to where they want to be.
“I am coming in with one aim and that is to get Albion to the Premier League.”
Ismael, who was appointed in June to replace Sam Allardyce, was dismissed after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Millwall, West Brom’s fourth loss in their last six Championship games.
The club’s stuttering form has seen them slip eight points adrift of the automatic promotion places.
“His excellent man-management skills, tactical nous, and ability to hit the ground running were among the many reasons we decided he was the man to take us forward,” said Gourlay, who was only appointed chief executive on Wednesday.
“Promotion remains our objective for this season, and we are confident that with Steve leading the club we have given ourselves every chance of achieving that goal.”
Bruce also becomes Albion’s first boss to use the title of manager since Tony Mowbray left for Celtic in 2009 – after which Roberto Di Matteo became the first in a line of 12 head coaches at the club.
Bruce can bring back the smiles – Analysis Rob Gurney – BBC Radio WM’s West Bromwich Albion reporter
Albion have done a complete 180 in the space of seven months, from giving Valerien Ismael, in theory, a four-year plan to take the club forward, including the brief to create a pathway into the first team for more youngsters, to the ultimate tried and tested manager Steve Bruce.
With exactly 1,000 games on his CV, the Baggies are Bruce’s 11th different club, and 12th job in management. No shortage of experience.
The short-term aim, already stated by him and new CEO Ron Gourlay, is immediate promotion back to the Premier League; a feat he’s already achieved four times.
Life at Villa Park and St James’ Park was particularly bruising for him, and it’ll be interesting to see just how revitalised he is, only a couple of months or so after leaving Newcastle.
Talking of bruised, one or two egos in the Albion dressing room have taken a hit this season, but the likes of Sam Johnstone and Jake Livermore have played for Bruce before, and his style will be more expansive than the strait-jacketed approach of his predecessor.
Progressive? No. Is it what the club needs, right here, right now? Possibly. Was the change unavoidable? Yes.
Healing the fractures that have become yawning chasms at The Hawthorns of late is the first objective.
Winning some matches with a smile and a bit of a swagger would be nice too.