STEVE Bruce’s two-and-a-half year reign on Wearside reached a conclusion last night after the almost inevitable axe was wielded on the Sunderland manager.
But when emotions settle after a troubled final few months for the former Wigan and Birmingham manager, how will Bruce be remembered for his tenure at the Stadium of Light?
SportMail’s Chris Young looks back on Bruce’s reign and examines the factors which led to his dismissal.
WHEN thousands launched into a venomous chorus directed at the weight and birthplace of their manager last weekend, there was no way back for Steve Bruce.
It was the knock-out blow to Bruce’s hopes of remaining in the Sunderland hot-seat, even if privately he still remained doggedly determined to secure the second successive top half finish earmarked during a hectic summer.
But the beginning of the end for Bruce wasn’t when Franco Di Santo punished Sunderland’s defensive calamity to send a rag-bag Wigan side into delirium.
The fatal wound was dealt three months earlier when Bruce was unable to finally relinquish his tag as the derby jinx.
To outsiders, the notion of losing one game and then coming under the full glare of the supporters’ spotlight is ludicrous, even if it is against the fiercest of local rivals.
Ordinarily, that would apply to Sunderland. Both successful predecessors Peter Reid and Roy Keane suffered damaging defeats to Newcastle United yet went on to banish those memories in the goodness of time.
They enjoyed several advantages which never applied to Bruce though.
Neither were from Tyneside, both went on to beat the Magpies and most crucially, never suffered the humiliation of the heaviest defeat against Sunderland’s arch-rivals in 54 years.
Bruce’s black and white heritage has been over-played in recent weeks, perhaps inevitably with the chanting delivered towards the 50-year-old last weekend.
But other than for the most blinkered, the Geordie moniker was only ever a label to beat Bruce over the head with when times were troubled.
Read more of Chris’s thoughts on Bruce’s departure in today’s Sportmail.