With Graeme Jones still away dreaming of working a little longer in a professional footballing operation led strategically and with emotional intelligence, it was back to Steve Bruce’s secret tactical unit in Darsley Park to come up with the game plan and substitutions for Tuesday night’s friendly at Rotherham.

In truth, Steve’s team of monkeys were only too happy to take up position behind their typewriters again after steering his random formation generator last season. Bash, bash, bash. Bashing away, they were bound to come up with a functional team if they were only given long enough. In any case, the badgers had been given the night off.

And so it came to pass. A goal down, seven defenders on the pitch and no strikers, the teleprinter in the away dugout churned out the final instruction. Jeff Hendrick as striker. Corner. Goal. Simian scenes in the Darsley operations centre, peanuts hurled skyward. Job done. Next up Shakespeare.

Meanwhile, the latter day bard of bacon faced the cameras and bent the English language to his immutable will as only he is able to. “As I’ve said all along…”, began Bruce, while the world held its breath. There’s so much wisdom that Steve has already shared, and yet there is so much more to come. Tell us, Steve, please. Don’t keep it to yourself. What’s pre-season really about?

“As I’ve said all along it’s about getting players ready.” Oooohhh. Right. Mancini and Guardiola scribbled notes furiously. Steve paused, recalling his magisterial strategy from last season and relishing the opportunity to set new ambitious targets for the season ahead. “The accumulation of minutes is vitally important.” Those discussions with Ashley about the new remit had clearly paid off.

Anyone waiting for further insight would have been disappointed, except for the masterplan to register four goalkeepers in his squad of 25, one of whom he intended to send on loan and one of whom is not to be trusted even in the direst of emergencies and despite having been signed only last year. Must have been someone else in charge of transfers then, eh?

Individual players would be back. Or maybe they wouldn’t. Muto would be loaned out or maybe he wouldn’t. Saint Maximin was out with “sickness”. Or maybe he wasn’t. Listening to the tell of that painfully manicured North Eastern accent after two months of blissful silence, a man superficially of the city and yet always wanting to be elsewhere, sickness felt pretty much appropriate.

And so the head “coach” dug deep into his glorious back catalogue to explain his (lack of) progress in the transfer market. While after Doncaster he’d warned us he wouldn’t be “breaking any transfer records” – probably for the best after how that went last time, Steve – now we were told there weren’t “bucket loads of cash”. But hey, that’s OK because apparently it’s difficult for all the clubs and managers. After all, there’s “not much money swashing around“. Not sloshing either, presumably. Well, except for the “wealthier” clubs. Like Brentford (Ajer), Villa (Buendia), and Palace (Guehi), not to mention the £40 million Leicester haven’t had to spend on Daka and Soumare.

“It is what it is,” we learnt after Doncaster. What’s that? A club stripped bare, a club cut to the bone? A beggar club in servitude, patiently waiting for the scraps from the table of the big (big) clubs? A club whose sole function is to act as a development side for Man Utd, Chelsea, and Arsenal? Still, it’ll be OK because, as Bruce reminded us, Willock and Willems were both loan signings. Funny that Bruce’s legendary attention to detail omitted to mention Rose, Bentaleb, and Lazaro. Pass me that Rothmans Yearbook and flick to “Will…”, we’re bound to find something there.

Alas, last week’s “badgering away” over Willock had not been successful, Arteta presumably proving unsusceptible to Bruce’s nocturnal visits. Can’t blame him for that. But never fear because this week saw a change in tack. Our man would be taking it into his own hands and “bashing away”. Furiously, unrelentingly, unashamedly. Bashing away after Doncaster, bashing away after Rotherham. The bashing would never stop. Well, I’m not sure it’ll do any good, but anything to ease the frustration, Steve.

Meanwhile, forgive us while we go and do some bashing of our own. Heads against a brick wall. Slowly, inevitably, despairingly.

Matthew Philpotts @mjp19731