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How Alex Ferguson 'Put The Boot Into' Steve Bruce Playing For Ireland

PJ Browne
By PJ Browne
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If a high-profile football manager is out of work, he will undoubtedly take a seat on the Goals On Sunday couch at some stage. Steve Bruce did that this morning, bringing along his son Alex.

International highlights featured prominently on the show leading the Bruces to discuss their dalliances with the game at that level. Alex Bruce has represented both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. That is due to him having a grandmother from Belfast. Of course, that means Steve Bruce could also have represented Ireland.

Bruce the elder told of a conversation he had with then Ireland manager Jack Charlton prior to USA 94. Charlton had heard from a train driver, who lived next to Bruce's mother, that he could be eligible to play for Ireland. It led to a phone call.

Big Jack Charlton rang me, when USA 94 [was approaching]... Typical Jack he rang me and said 'I've just been on a train and the driver tells me your mother is from Ireland.' I said 'Yes, Jack.' He said 'Why didn't you tell me before? Look, I'd love to welcome you, we've got the World Cup in USA.'


It seems Bruce's priority was to play for England. A senior cap never came his way, though he has represented England at B-level. He actually turned down a sympathy cap from Terry Venables during the latter part of his career while he was at Birmingham.

Playing for Ireland appears to have been the secondary option. Any thought that he might take up Jack Charlton on his offer was killed by Alex Ferguson. At the time, UEFA had a three-foreigner rule in place. It meant Irish, Northern Irish, Welsh and Scottish players were considered as foreign and so Man Utd were restricted in terms of which players could lineout in Europe. Ferguson did not want Bruce to become one of those players.

Back in the day, if you were foreign or 'Irish' and that assimilated rule, you could have been a foreigner player for Man U. Sir Alex put the boot into that one. He said 'You're not going to be foreign.' That was really the end of it.

Considering that the three-foreigner rule was removed by UEFA not long after Charlton made the offer to Bruce, it's curious he did not revisit the possibility of playing for Ireland.

See Also: 'The Messages Were Just Vile' - Harry Arter Considered Quitting Ireland On Thursday Night



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