‘It is going to be very difficult’ – Bruce aiming to keep play-off hopes alive during latest Canaries reunion
- Credit: Archant
Steve Bruce admits it will be ‘very difficult’ for Sheffield Wednesday to claim a play-off place, ahead of his latest Norwich City reunion.
The former Canaries captain brings the Owls to Carrow Road on Friday night looking to close a six-point gap to the top six, which could be bigger by kick-off with the other Championship games being played in the afternoon.
That follows a 1-0 loss at Leeds at the weekend, with play-off rivals Derby and Bristol City also both having a game in hand.
“There is still a bit to play for, with Bristol at home (on Monday), but there are two or three others – we are not just chasing one,” Bruce said. “There are two or three other teams who won on Saturday so it is going to be very difficult.
“We have lost two games in a week. I have been here the best part of four months now and we have lost another where we didn’t deserve to lose.”
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Wednesday made a shaky start to the season and former boss Jos Luhukay was sacked just before Christmas after one win in 10 games had left them 18th in the table and just six points above the relegation zone.
Lee Bullen took caretaker charge and kept things ticking over nicely with two wins and two draws over the festive period.
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Bruce was then appointed at the start of January but remained in the background, as he had plans to recuperate after some health issues which required two operations, with both of his parents passing away during a tough 2018, including losing his job at Aston Villa in October.
Another win and a draw was earned with Bruce’s assistants Steve Agnew and Stephen Clemence in charge during the Owls’ three league games in January – also getting past League One promotion chasers Luton in the FA Cup third round after a replay, before losing 3-0 at Chelsea in the fourth round.
All of which allowed Bruce to take up the reins with Wednesday still 17th but 11 points clear of the bottom three, winning his first game 1-0 at Ipswich at the start of February.
In total the Owls have played 14 games under the former Canaries defender, winning six, drawing six and losing just twice, scoring 19 and conceding 10 as their continued resurgence took them to within swinging distance of the play-offs.
Those two defeats however, have come in the last three games, with a 3-1 home loss to Villa and the loss at Leeds on Saturday sandwiching a 3-0 home win over Nottingham Forest.
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The Owls held City’s frustrated City’s title rivals at Elland Road but Jack Harrison’s strike in the 65th minute was enough to puncture their resistance, with Leeds having 60 percent of possession and 28 shots to Wednesday’s eight.
“They are chalk and cheese to what they were last season,” an impressed Bruce told the Sheffield Star after the defeat to Marcelo Bielsa’s team.
“The transformation in the last 12 months is there for all to see. For a team that finished mid-table, the turnaround is quite remarkable. Fair play to Leeds.
“There is (Patrick) Bamford who has come in. But, basically, this is the same personnel. I take my hat off to him (Bielsa). A breath of fresh air, that is what he has been.
“A very, very good outfit. I have seen them a few times. Their fitness levels and intensity they play at made things very difficult for us.”
Next up for the Owls are the only team above Leeds in the table, with City seven points clear of third placed Sheffield United ahead of Friday’s games, unbeaten in 10 and looking to seal promotion to the Premier League.
Bruce scored 21 goals in 180 games for Norwich between 1984 and 1987, before moving on to Manchester United, and has faced his former club on numerous occasions during spells in charge of clubs including Sheffield United, Sunderland and Villa – leading Birmingham to play-off final glory against Norwich on penalties back in 2002.
• Steve Bruce has faced Norwich City as a manager on 21 occasions, with seven different clubs, winning 10, drawing seven and losing four
• Bruce has lost on his last four visits to Carrow Road, with Villa, Hull and Sunderland
• His three wins, from 12 games in total at Carrow Road, were with Crystal Palace (2001-02), Birmingham (2001-02) and Sunderland (2009-10, in the League Cup)