Final day's triumph and torment: Steve Bruce elated by return but says Hull will spend wisely
Monday 06 May 2013
Five minutes is all it took for realism to reign at the KC Stadium. Steve Bruce had been talking about one of the strangest days in Championship history with pride and gusto before his attitude changed – and a new focus on the task in hand came to the fore.
It looked as though they'd blown it, drawing 2-2 against Cardiff, but Hull had somehow clinched promotion to the Premier League. Bruce and his boys enjoyed it – the beer was already flowing in the chairman's suite – but the manager was keen not to overdo the celebrations. He didn't want to come across like a previous incumbent in the job, Phil Brown, who sang on the pitch after keeping Hull in the top flight.
After confirmation that Watford had lost to Leeds United thus securing Hull's promotion, Bruce wanted to tell the world what owner Assem Allam has done for the club. "I'll make sure that we plan properly and try to make the best of it we can," Bruce said. "I certainly won't be going down the route of sending the club close to oblivion, because without the chairman here that's where this club would be.
"It'd be a Portsmouth or one of these other horror stories. Without the chairman and his input of money the place would be going down the tubes. It's important that we think long and hard, spend wisely, build the club and the training ground."
Bruce has undoubtedly looked at the ridiculous practices at Queen's Park Rangers and made the decision that Hull will be prudent with the pot of gold they're handed this summer. There won't be any star signings for astronomical fees – the likes of the injury-ravaged Jimmy Bullard left a bitter taste last time – and there wasn't talk of following a model. The Tigers allowed themselves to be sucked in by the money three years ago. Not again – they'll be doing it a different way.
It is also 18 months since Bruce has been a Premier League manager. This promotion presents vindication to those who thought that Sunderland were too hasty in sacking him in December 2011 and have gone backwards since as a club.
"You take a club up and it's hard to stay in the Premier League," Bruce said. "It was hard at Birmingham for five years, hard at Wigan for two and hard at Sunderland. But I didn't think this was my last chance because my record stands up.
"But I probably wasn't flavour of last summer. I had two, three opportunities, but none from the Premier League where there were five jobs up for grabs last year. I was a bit disappointed with that. But I had to dust myself down and go again and try to fight back to where I was. When the Championship comes knocking you question whether you have the enthusiasm. That was the big difference – did I have the enthusiasm?"
He clearly did – and he was driven by the deplorable way he felt he was treated at the Stadium of Light. "I took over a club who had just survived by the skin of its teeth," he added. "We finished 13th in the league, then 10th and then I got the sack after 11 games in the third year while balancing the books and no net spend. I thought I was doing a decent job. What happened was a kneejerk reaction to a bad defeat by Wigan. I still thought after what I'd done there I'd get more time."
It is not inconceivable that Sunderland could be one of the teams Hull replace at the top table of English football.
Now that would be sweet justice – not that Bruce would ever admit it. He's just pleased to be back.
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