Steve Bruce will be reunited with with one of his best signings and the one that got away when he takes Newcastle to Liverpool today.
The Reds will have Bruce’s former Hull full-back Andy Robertson among their ranks at Anfield, as well as Virgil Van Dijk, a man he, along with a host of rivals, attempted to capture before he left Celtic for Southampton.
Asked about his £2.85million swoop for Scotland skipper Robertson in July 2014, he said: “Stan Ternent, my chief scout at the time, said ‘I’ve just seen this kid at Dundee United – we’ve got to take him’.
“We did our homework. I went to see him and we took him. It was a little bit of a gamble. I remember him arriving with his mum holding her hand!
“To be fair to him, we had a couple of injuries and I threw him in. He went in at left-back and had an unbelievable debut against QPR. He hasn’t looked back, has he? He’s been quite remarkable.”
But if Bruce succeeded in landing Robertson, he was less successful when he attempted to buy Van Dijk.
He said: “I had dinner with Kenny Dalglish and the owner of Celtic, Dermot Desmond, in Barbados – I’m name-dropping now – and the owner of Celtic was waxing lyrical about the best players he’s had.
“He was saying, ‘[Henrik] Larsson is definitely, definitely the best player that I’ve seen play for Celtic in my ownership’, and what he said is, ‘What I can’t understand is, nobody has gone for Van Dijk’.
“I thought, ‘That’s interesting, he’s seen a lot of football over the last 12 years’, so I went and we tried. I tried to get him before he went to Southampton.”
Asked what the price was for the man who later arrived at Liverpool in a £75million deal, he answered: “About £10million, £12million. I was nowhere near getting him. I tried, but I had no chance.”
Meanwhile, Bruce revealed how he still gets excited when he visits the homes of English football’s big boys after taking his wife to watch games in London when he played at Gillingham.
He said with a smile: “How she’s still with me after 36 years… Night out, it was, ‘Come on, we’ll go and watch Arsenal and have a kebab on the way home’.”