23 March 2010

The Celebrity Hate Meme

Thanks to Yousuf and Caron, I've been tagged in the latest fashionable meme: to name a celebrity who you hate with a passion, which started with this basic premise from the Telegraph's Bryony Gordon:

I have a theory that almost everybody loathes one person in the public eye with such passion that the mere mention of their name is enough to make you combust with rage. This person has to be someone famous, someone you have never met before, someone who can pop up on the television for 30 seconds yet make you feel apoplectic for hours afterwards.

For Yousuf, it's Robbie Williams (who would have been on my shortlist). For Caron, Gary Rhodes. I had a shortlist: Robbie would have been on it had Yousuf not got there first and done such an excellent job. Jordan would have been on it, but I decided that was like shooting fish in a barrel (well, two ridiculously large fish in an ill-fitting barrel, to be precise), as would Victoria Beckham. Peter Scudamore is probably just short of 'celebrity' status, so was ruled out, and Rafa Benitez nearly got on there, but the sole reason would have been his hypocrisy at complaining when Wigan Athletic Chairman Dave Whelan reflected on the sorry internal state of Liverpool FC, stating that Whelan should focus on his own club, just a week after he himself ripped the piss out of Sam Allardyce's tactics at Blackburn.

Instead, I've gone for the obvious choice: Steve Bruce, with the help of this image from Bobbing Along, the Cardiff City fanzine (that's a thought, I could have done Peter Ridsdale):

The Wales fans above have summed up my feelings admirably. So let me explain why it is that Brucie Bonus makes be want to hurl a Size 10 boot into the TV set.

We begin our story in the 2000-01 season, back when Wigan were in what was then Division 2 (now League 1, of course). Steve Bruce had been sacked by Huddersfield Town for sending them on something of a death spiral, while Bruce Rioch had been summarily dismissed from the Latics gig for looking at Dave Whelan the wrong way. The Chairman brought Steve Bruce in as his successor with only a handful of games left, and he steadied the ship, securing us a place in the Play-Offs.

Then, almost as soon as we got knocked out of the play-offs, he buggered off to Crystal Palace.

He didn't stay there long either - by the end of the year, he'd moved on again, this time to Birmingham, and I seem to recall that it didn't initially occur to Bruce to let Palace know that he was quitting. He did at least stay in the Midlands for a decent stint, but in 2007, when it first looked like Carson Yeung was going to take over Birmingham City and rumours were flying around that Bruce would be one of the first dismissed by the new owner (it was two years later when Yeung finally bought the club and he has kept Alex McLeish on up to now), Bruce was complaining to anyone who'd listen that he was being treated unfairly, that he had a contract with Birmingham which should be seen out, and that he deserved to know where he stood. For the rest of us, it seemed like what had gone around was now finally coming around for Bruce.

Luckily, he found an escape route: by then, Wigan were of course in their third season in the Premier League and after the tense 2006-07 season ended up driving Paul Jewell out of the managerial post, Dave Whelan opted not to learn from former Bradford City Chairman Geoffrey Richmond's mistake and duly appointed Jewell's deputy, Chris Hutchings, as his successor. Consequently, Whelan was the only person surprised when results started gong badly wrong and relegation was beginning to look increasingly likely. In came Bruce, returning like the Prodigal Son, and Wigan fans founded themselves revising the last six years of their lives, claiming that, actually, they'd always liked Bruce.

Then, last Summer, he did it again. Despite being a Newcastle United fan, Bruce opted to succeed Ricky Sbragia at rivals Sunderland. Now, Sunderland and Wigan are very similar in terms of status. Let me explain - there are two criteria to a good signing for a club: 1) you have to have heard of the player, and 2) the player has to be quite decent. The problem when you're at a club like Sunderland or Wigan, however, is that on the whole, you're generally only capable of signing players who meet only one of those criteria. Chris Hutchings focused on the former (hence Titus Bramble), but Bruce, to his credit, was and is adept at getting the latter right instead. Hence signings like Amr Zaki (who was good for two months), Wilson Palacios (who now plies his trade with Spurs), Maynor Figueroa (who at least had a flash of brilliance against Stoke this season) and Hugo Rodallega (who has endured being partnered with Jason Scotland and Marcelo Moreno - South America's answer to Kyle Lafferty - upfront without going insane) initially read like a "Who's That?" of world football but all have made a mark. It seemed, therefore, that he'd go down a similar route at Sunderland. Instead, his first act was to declare that signing players for the Black Cats was like Harrods, comparing his former employers to Tesco.

This ludicrous declaration was rendered even more barking when he then spent the entire close season letting it be known that he wanted to sign Tesco product Lee Cattermole and proceeded to conduct negotiations through the press.

Then he spent the January transfer window bleating that Liverpool were tapping up Kenwyne Jones.

On another note, there's the tactics: they were, to a degree, effective, often brutally so - especially with a Midfield combination of Lee Cattermole and Michael Brown (and a team with both of those in it is guaranteed to reach full time with 10 men or fewer). But they were Allardycean in nature and it speaks volumes that Bruce's slog 'n' clog approach was the only one to thrive when the pitch at the then JJB Stadium was at its worst, with the scorch mark running from goalmouth to goalmouth, and churned up by the egg-chasers' abuse of the surface. We did manage to grind out a fair few results, but when we didn't, when both the process and the outcome were dire, it was absolutely soul-crushing.

So the charge sheet is as follows: he's a mercenary, a money-grabbing Judas who'll go anywhere and say anything if he smells the cash; he's a hypocritical gobshite; his tactics owe more to Wigan Warriors than Wigan Athletic. But there's another thing.

I hate Steve Bruce for what I turn into when he's involved.

I should have nothing against Sunderland. They aren't below Wigan in the table (so do not currently pose a threat to the Latics' Premiership status in the way that West Ham, Wolves, Hull and Burnley need to keep losing), and they aren't local rivals. There's an odd chain of rivalry in the North West: Burnley and Blackburn Rovers are arch-rivals (to the extent that my usually quiet Rovers-supporting workmate's only rant in the office up to now has been "Why is Burnley even a Borough?! It's just a crappy little town that belongs in Yorkshire!") , but Bolton consider Blackburn their main rivals. When Blackburn either aren't available or are pre-occupied with Burnley, Bolton turn to Wigan in an emergency. Wigan see Bolton as emergency rivals as well, when Preston North End aren't available (and in any case, the Latics' real hate figures are Wigan Warriors Rugby League) and Preston fans see Blackpool as their main foes. The Black Cats don't form part of that chain at all and yet I want them to suffer.

And it's all because of Brucie Bonus.

I want to see Sunderland relegated. They're not local rivals, it's not a "them or us" situation, and they're not one of those clubs like Newcastle or Leeds (or, at the nicer end of the table, Man United) who just manage to piss everyone off, mainly because of the way the fans project themselves, but I want to see them go down.

And it's all because of Brucie Bonus.

Every time Sunderland come into the equation I turn into a creature of pure malevolence.

And it's all because of Brucie Bonus.

And that, really, is why I hate him.

As always, I choose to swallow the meme - it looks like it's starting to double back on itself anyway...


commentor said...

AFAIAC, all posts on this theme should consist of two words: 'Piers Morgan'.

Will said...

Ha! Good point, commentor, though the only thing I'd say is that hatred of Piers Morgan is basically a given - it's better for us if we manage to surprise each other!

Allan said...

Jeez... the world is your oyster. You could have picked Bloody Cowell, Ant'n Dec, even the sex change gone wrong that is Russel Brand, but you went for Steve Bruce?