Bruce came through the youth system at Watford and made his debut as a 17 year old. The following season, he became the first teenager to transfer for a million pounds when he joined Crystal Palace. He later rejoined Watford in 2003 and spent a further two seasons at the club.
Now retired, Bruce spoke to Watford Legends in 2009.
You started with us as a youth player. Why Watford?
They were the first team to come in for me. Ken Brooks who was the kit manager recommended me, and I was invited to train and it went from there.
You played about 30 games across your first couple of seasons. Do you remember making the breakthrough?
I can remember Darren Bazeley got injured three games in to the season. Kenny Jackett was my manager at youth team level and he took over as assistant manager, and it was Kenny that pushed for me to get the opportunity.
Any particular games from that first spell that stand out for you?
I think it was a cup game against Brentford which was my first game that I remember being involved in. I was very excited to be getting the chance and it was that game that really got me going.
Did you have a good relationship with your team mates?
Gerard Lavin and Richard Johnson were my main mates as we used to live in digs together.
When you came through you were quite a skinny lad. Was that much of a problem in the cut-and-thrust of the senior game?
To be fair Kenny used to work me quite hard in the gym, but I suppose I was a little bit lightweight. Although I was mentally strong and that helped me out.
You were the first million pound teenager in 1994 when you signed for Palace. Big weight on the shoulders?
No not for me; it was a dream come true. I didn’t even look at it. It was just special to sign to a club that was on its way to the Premiership.
We’ll skip past your career at Palace and Barnsley as we’re focusing on your time at Watford. But you came back for a second spell. Was it strange to come back?
Yes and it didn’t quite work out, and when I look at it now I wish I hadn’t gone back.
Why do you say that?
I’m a goalscorer. And throughout my career I score goals and I don’t think I scored enough goals for Watford. But sometimes in life you make decisions and live or die by them. I don’t regret it though, Watford have been very good to me in my life and it was a good opportunity for both parties. I thought I did ok in my second year but comparing that year to other years in my career it wasn’t as good.
Why do you think it didn’t click for you?
I don’t know. I think maybe my mind wasn’t all there, and there was a niggling doubt in my mind that I’d made the wrong decision. But that’s life. I gave it my best shot and I always did my best for the team.
Did you have offers to go elsewhere other than Watford?
I had a couple of offers, and one that tempted me. I didn’t really want to move at all but as one manager said to me, its better to be celebrated rather than tolerated and that’s why I came to Watford.
Was it tough to come back to Watford after living up north for a few years?
It was tough. Both my wife and I were settled so it was a big step for both of us really.
It’s quite well known that you are a religious man. What is it like to be a devout Christian in the dressing room culture of football? Did it cause you any problems?
No, to be fair in every club I’ve been to it’s never been a secret, and I’m proud to be a Christian, and at every club everybody has respected that I live a Christian lifestyle. You learn what banter to get involved in and banter that its best not to get involved in. Of course I’ve had the odd player who has taken the mickey out of me but in general all players have respected my beliefs and it’s been a positive thing.
You left Watford in 2005 and in truth bounced around clubs for a while and ended up most recently at York. What’s the potted history from Watford to York?
Gosh here we go! I went to Stoke, Sheffield United, then Doncaster, then Chesterfield and eventually York!
Why do you think you didn’t stick at one club?
I started to get a few injuries over the last few years after a career of being relatively injury free. I started getting quite a few problems with my back.
You finished last year at York. What are you doing now?
I retired at Christmas and my wife and I have started putting on gospel events. We did our first on in August and it was really good
Is this something you will do as a full time concern?
Hopefully. God has blessed me and I’ve done alright out of football, and by the grace of god I’d now like to give something back and these gospel events are a way of me doing just that.
My wife and I are keen on community spirit and the nights we plan are for everyone in the community to be able to go out, relax and enjoy themselves, away from the nightlife of clubbing and getting lashed, which not everyone wants to do.
Do you wish you could have played on for longer?
No, in fact maybe I should have retired a bit earlier, rather than trying to get fit over and over again. I think circumstances were trying to tell me something. I made the right decision though and I believe that there is more to life than football and I hope to have some good years ahead of me.
Thanks for talking to us Bruce, good luck for the future.
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