As shown in the Venn diagram below, Steve Bruce is the only manager in the Premier League who is British, who is experienced (for illustration and simplicity, let’s take this to mean over 50), and whose reputation in football was forged during his playing days (all 20 were players at some stage, but only a minority could be considered top players).

None of these three factors is a pre-requisite for being a capable top-flight manager.  In fact, there is one manager, Nuno Espirito Santo at Wolves, who does not fall within any of them.

Nonetheless, they are all factors which generally lead to managers receiving media coverage which is more favourable than it otherwise would be.  It is not that Bruce’s cheerleaders have a malicious, anti-Newcastle agenda.  Usually, they do not – the exception being Simon Jordan, who is – with respect – a wanker.  Rather, these lazy biases are often unconscious, even though it is frustrating to hear Bruce repeatedly backed by various talking heads who don’t have to put up with watching his insipid anti-football.

Returning to the anti-Bruce, Nuno Espirito Santo, to the extent he receives positive coverage, it is entirely on merit and due to Wolves’ development as a club under his stewardship.  He receives favourable press in spite of who he is.  Bruce, by contrast, is dealt an easy hand because of who he is.  Indeed, the subtext – when Bruce gets plaudits or sympathy – is usually that he’s the “right sort”, and has the “right stuff” (for which read – he’s British, he’s getting on a bit, and he was a decent player once).  It often has very little to do with anything he’s doing at Newcastle.  Bruce’s cheerleaders tend to be character witnesses for the defence: the likes of Dion Dublin and Roy Keane (who played with him), and Jamie Redknapp (who played at the same time as him).  For good measure, there’s also Alex McLeish, who spoke highly of Bruce on the basis that “he was my neighbour when we lived in Birmingham”.  There are plenty of warm words for Bruce, but few of them tend to relate to the job he is actually doing.

British managers are not inferior to foreign ones.  You don’t have to be a myopic xenophobe to have a natural disposition in favour of a home-grown manager.  Knowing the peculiarities of the English game, which persist despite the globalisation of top-level football, is important.

Older managers are not inferior to younger ones.  Experience can count for something, particularly if it is the kind of experience which entails being exposed to varied methods, cultures and ideas.  Hodgson is a good example of this, having managed overseas and at international level.

Managers who were good players are not inferior to those who weren’t.  It can undoubtedly be helpful for a manager to have had a strong playing career.  Firstly, it commands respect and credibility.  Guardiola’s managerial philosophy is believable because of how he played the game.  Secondly, it can be particularly useful where the manager in question played for the same club: supporters have more patience and goodwill towards “one of their own” – Arteta, Solskjaer and Lampard being the obvious current examples.

So, given that these three factors can all help managers, why is it that the only Premier League manager with all three in his favour – Bruce – continues to be an abject failure at Newcastle?  One view is that when a manager has every advantage, it creates an increased risk of complacency and believing one’s own hype (which the media’s kind treatment of managers who have Bruce’s personal characteristics does little to dispel).  Bruce is simply too comfortable.  Football managers, like all professionals, need to be under some pressure in order to push themselves, to try new approaches, and to succeed.  Whatever Bruce may say, he is simply not under the same kind of pressure faced by Hasenhuttl – who will be tarred with the “foreign flop” brush if Southampton’s form deteriorates, or Parker – whose youth will be cited as a reason for Fulham going down, if indeed they do.  Parker’s entire career hangs in the balance.  Look at Paul Ince – where is he now?  There is simply no such peril facing Bruce.  What awaits him after Newcastle is the cosy embrace of the studio and the company of men just like him, or, if he prefers, a comfortable retirement.

In short, these three key factors (being British, being experienced, and having been a top player) are all things which – in isolation – can help managers succeed.  But, in combination, and particularly when massaged by the lazier parts of the media, they create a counterproductive sense of privilege and entitlement.  Graeme Souness had it.  Mark Hughes has it.  Steve Bruce undoubtedly has it, and we’re stuck with it.

YOUSEF HATEM