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Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, returns to former club Norwich City in the Premier League on Monday.
Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, returns to former club Norwich City in the Premier League on Monday.

Steve Bruce back where it all started at Norwich

The Sunderland manager began his playing career at Carrow Road, but it was not the most successful of debuts.

Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, will return to Norwich tonight knowing the lesson he learnt there 27 years ago remains just as relevant today.

Bruce endured a disastrous playing debut for Norwich City when he scored a first-minute own goal against Liverpool on the opening day of the 1984/85 season after his move from Gillingham, but went on to pick up a winners' medal in the League Cup final that season.

The central defender spent three and a half years at Carrow Road before his form alerted Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson to his prowess, and the rest is history.

That revival of fortunes was not lost on Bruce as he contemplated his return having guided Sunderland to a 4-0 victory over Stoke City last week amid speculation that his time at the Stadium of Light could be drawing to a close.

He said: "In my first game for Norwich, I scored an own goal after 30 seconds - it was against Liverpool at home - and I think I scored a second own goal as well about 22 minutes later.

"[Kenny] Dalglish cut inside Dave Watson - if you remember Dalglish's trick, his favourite one, he cut inside and bent it in the far corner with his left foot.

"I was on the line and I tried to get my head on that. I headed it and I headed that one in as well, so I had got two own goals after 28 minutes.

"I think they were calling for my head that day as well - 'Who's this clown we have bought here from Gillingham? Get him back to Gillingham'.

"Six months later, we were winning the cup against Sunderland, ironically, at Wembley.

"I had gone from the third division to playing in the first division, as it was then, so for that, I will always be grateful to Norwich.

"I had a wonderful three and a half years.

"We won a cup, we got relegated, we got promoted, finished fifth in the old first division, so it was a good time.

"My two kids were born there. I had a really good time, I enjoyed it immensely."

Bruce, of course, went on to bigger and better things at Old Trafford, where he won seven major trophies before making the move into management at Sheffield United.

His spells at Bramall Lane, Huddersfield Town, Crystal Palace, Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic during the intervening period have taught him much about the fluctuating fortunes of his profession, although even he has admitted his surprise at the response to his current club's start to the season.

However, having twice led Birmingham to promotion to the Premier League, he has a good appreciation of the job Norwich manager Paul Lambert has done, and the difficulties he now faces in keeping the Norfolk club in the top flight.

Bruce said: "He has had a wonderful rise there. To go into Norwich and have back-to-back promotions is a wonderful achievement.

"I am pleased for them, I am really, really pleased because even though it was a long, long time ago, I thoroughly enjoyed my time."

Norwich recorded a first top-flight victory at Bolton Wanderers last weekend which saw them bounce back from a disappointing home loss to West Bromwich Albion.

"I am pretty sure last week will have heightened that belief, because it takes away everybody saying 'Norwich haven't won'," Lambert told a news conference.

"The level of performances have been really high, and we have had games where we might have got more points than we have done.

"Now we have to try to keep the same level of performance that we have been showing of late.

"However, looking at the players Sunderland have brought in during the summer, and the players that were already there, I am under no illusions how hard this is going to be."

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