Sheffield United 2-0 West Brom: Four things we learned from Steve Bruce in his first Baggies game

Two goals from Billy Sharp inflicted defeat on Steve Bruce and his West Brom side in his first game in charge

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It’s fair to say Steve Bruce’s return to management with West Bromwich Albion didn’t get off to the ideal start on Wednesday evening.

A 2-0 loss to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane saw the Baggies drop out of the play-offs and all the way down to ninth in the Championship league table but it was both a performance and a result that was hard to dissect in the grand scheme.

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The visitors, backed by good numbers in the away end, started well and were showing more fight right from the off with their high press.

But Jake Livermore’s red card after Billy Sharp had given the Blades the lead against the run of play all but extinguished any hopes of seeing what this Bruce side could do.

With that said though, there was a lot to learn from this one, especially about the new man himself and what he’s going to bring to this side as we enter the business end of the campaign.

Referee Leigh Doughty shows a red card to West Bromwich Albion's Jake Livermore against Sheffield United: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.Referee Leigh Doughty shows a red card to West Bromwich Albion's Jake Livermore against Sheffield United: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Referee Leigh Doughty shows a red card to West Bromwich Albion's Jake Livermore against Sheffield United: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.


Steve Bruce’s passion was there for all to see and if there was any hesitation or uncertainties as to why he took the job, he answered those within the first five minutes.

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A tackle right in front of his technical area on Grady Diangana saw Bruce come flying onto the pitch waving his arms around and demanding a card for the United man.

He spent the majority of the night on the very edge of his dugout shouting instructions at his players and willing his men to keep going even when the second goal had gone in.

It was good to see, especially when you compare it to the lack of emotion we saw towards the end of Valerien Ismael’s tenure.


One of the most telling things was the smile on the manager’s face, even after defeat in the post-match press conference.

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He was serenaded by the visiting fans as he arrived onto the pitch and duly obliged to their chant of “Brucey, give us a wave.” If you compare that to the pure hatred that some in the north east had for him, there’s no wonder he was smiling.

Speaking after the game he said he really enjoyed being back amongst it and it doesn’t matter what line of work you’re in, enjoying it goes a long way to producing results.


Bruce was adamant post-match that the referee got the decision to send Jake Livermore off wrong, claiming that he believes he got the ball.

He also went on to add that he and the fans would have been mad if Livermore didn’t make the challenge at all so he had no problems with him going in on Conor Hourihane.

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Whilst many will disagree and think the officials got it spot on, it was nice to see Bruce protect his players. Behind closed doors, you never know, he may have words with the captain but he protected him in front of the media which will sit well not only with Livermore but the rest of the squad too.

That’s what leaders do.

Four at the back

As predicted prior to the match, Bruce strayed away from what Albion have done under Ismael in playing three at the back and moved to what he knows best, four at the back.

Matt Clarke and Semi Ajayi were the two chosen to play in the middle of Darnell Furlong and Conor Townsend and whilst the central two may not stay the same moving forwards, the system most certainly will.

Bruce has managed the majority of his career with four defenders and that seems to be the way forwards now for Albion.

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The system to me looked to alternate between 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 in the early stages but that will be something to monitor moving forwards as that of course all went out of the window once the Baggies were reduced to 10 men.

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