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Alex Bruce (1973/74 to 1975/76)

Alex Bruce
Bth 23/12/52 Dundee
P/H/W Forward 5ft 8in 10st 4lb
Jnd 24/01/74 Preston £140,000
Deb 05/02/74 Southampton (A) D1
Dep 28/08/75 Preston Exchange
A/G 20 (4) 4

Alex Bruce scored 171 goals in 404 games for Preston in two spells with the club. In contrast, his 18 months on Tyneside, sandwiched between his time in Lancashire, was unfortunately a very frustrating time for the Scot.

He was 21 when he joined in January 1974 and at £140,000 he became United’s third most expensive signing, the Lancastrians being forced to sell as they were in financial trouble. There was also an add-on of £10,000 which would be invoked if he won an international cap. The precocious youngster had been watched by a number of clubs including Everton, Sunderland and Manchester City.

Former Preston manager Alan Ball claimed he was “the greatest prospect I have ever seen” and current boss Bobby Charlton believed he would be a Scottish International one day. Harvey said: "this boy gets goals and that is why we are buying him".

Bruce had a lot of raw talent, was quick and dangerous in the penalty area and clinical in front of goal. At only 5' 8" he was, by his own admission, not that effective in the air and could not operate as a target man. He preferred to “feed off the chances created by other players, picking up the pieces”.

Thriving at coming through from midfield he liked to run the ball up to opponents and take them on and was particularly effective cutting in from wide on the left. He also had a cracking shot. A potential weakness was a tendency to hang onto the ball too long. Some noted that he had a similar playing style to Tony Green.

Despite his reputation as one of the best up-and coming players he never established himself in the side. Joe Harvey hardly played him and then put him on the transfer list less than eleven months after his arrival.

No clubs were willing to match the £100,000 asking price so he was still at the club when Gordon Lee arrived in the summer of 1975. Lee was not prepared to let anyone leave before he had seen them play, but despite featuring in the first few games of the season he was used as a makeweight in the deal which brought Preston captain John Bird to Tyneside.

Not surprisingly he was not unhappy to leave and regarded his time on the Tyne as a complete waste of 19 months.

Season by Season

Pre Toon

Joined Preston at 15 and signed professional in the summer of 1970. Bobby Charlton converted him from a midfielder into a striker. Playing in Division 2 he scored 22 goals in 62 games and was voted “most promising player of the year” by Granada TV viewers in 1972/73.

1973/74 (7/1 - 1)

Alex made his debut at The Dell and scored on his home debut. But with him being cup-tied it made it difficult to establish himself. He was selected for Scotland-U23 for the game against England played at St. James’ in March, but did not shine.

1974/75 (6/3 - 2)

Shaving off his beard didn’t seem to improve his chances and in pre-season he wasn’t even selected for the Texaco Cup games. And after being sent to play against part-timers Consett he said: “I’ve never felt so humiliated in my life. I now wonder why I was bought”. He asked Harvey for assurances about his future but wasn’t given any. Stuck playing in midfield or wide on the left for the Reserves he pleaded for a chance to show what he could do and asked to be moved back to striker, Eventually he was transfer-listed in December but the £100,000 asking price deterred suitors.

1975/76 (4 - 1)

When new manager Gordon Lee gave him a run in the side at the start of the 1975/76 season things looked up, only for him to be used as part of the deal to bring Preston captain and central-defender John Bird to Newcastle.

Post Toon

Scored 135 times in 301 appearances for Preston before ending his career at Wigan, eventually retiring due to a knee injury.


Painting by Piotr