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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
Read

Bruce blames 'hatred' for axe

Steve Bruce believes the "absolute hatred" surrounding North East football cost him his job with Sunderland.

• FA issues fines after Tyne-Wear derby

Bruce, a childhood Newcastle United fan, was appointed Sunderland manager in the summer of 2009, but was dismissed in November last year with the team lying 16th in the Premier League despite significant investment in the squad.

Sunderland's form improved significantly with the appointment of Martin O'Neill and they are now just one point behind eighth-placed Liverpool, but Bruce feels he should have been given the chance to turn it around.

"We weren't staring at relegation," Bruce told Newcastle's Evening Chronicle newspaper. "What I needed was time, time for new players to bed in, get used to new surroundings, and new tactics, but I wasn't given that which disappoints me.

"I just think the owner saw the hatred that was directed towards me from the terraces and thought I would never recover from it. Even if I had won the next six games some people would never have forgiven me for being a Geordie."

He added: "The hatred I suffered was unbelievable. It was brutal, it really was. In fairness it was a minority of Sunderland fans who abused me but it was way over the top and very hurtful.

"I can't change my upbringing. I am who I am and proud of it, but I paid a big price.

"As a manager who has spent a lifetime in football I was prepared to take whatever come my way but for my closest relatives it was very different. Both my family and my wife's family are from Newcastle and they were deeply hurt and affected by what happened.

"I had to batten down the hatches and lie low. I didn't go out to my local pub. I didn't want to invite abuse.

"The media up there is something else as well. There is a mass scramble for news, a demand to write hundreds upon hundreds of words every day on Sunderland and Newcastle, and while I tried to accommodate everybody in the end the criticism even locally was relentless because the fans had to be fed.

"The funny thing is that people in the rest of the country wouldn't understand. They would think it was all excuses. They don't know how North East football works, the intensity of it."

Bruce, whose Sunderland side were beaten 5-1 at Newcastle in October 2010, said the derby has become particularly hate-fuelled.

"Honestly, I have to say that the Tyne-Wear derby is no longer a nice one," he said. "My biggest disappointment above all else is the absolute hatred I witnessed between the fans of Newcastle and Sunderland.

"Fierce rivalry is one thing but hatred is quite another. This is not like the people of the North East who are warm, funny and, yes, passionate but in a good way.

"Liverpool and Everton have a fierce rivalry but they have a respect for each other living in the same city. I played in many big derbies with Manchester United, be it against City or Liverpool, and for Norwich against Ipswich, which us Geordies might not see as a big game but which most certainly is in East Anglia, yet not one of them generated what the Tyne-Wear game now does.

"The only one like it is Rangers v Celtic in Glasgow, which has an obvious element of hatred as well."

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