Steve Bruce: We’re not ready for it, but we’ll try to enjoy Europe
He took Hull City to their first FA Cup final; now, for his next trick, Steve Bruce will try to combine further survival in the Premier League with a first season in Europe. The challenges keep coming.
Competing in Europe was a dream when Hull were in the fourth tier a decade ago, but Bruce is aware that the demands of the Europa League could turn it into a nightmare.
Had Hull won the FA Cup on Saturday they would have gained direct entry into the group stage of the Europa League. That place now goes to Everton, with Hull taking the third qualification spot, which begins in the third qualifying round.
Clubs with a much greater European pedigree, such as PSV Eindhoven, Olympique Lyon and Rosenborg, come in at this level though Hull, also being seeded, will not have to face them. The Tigers are instead likely to be sent to a far-flung corner of the Balkans or the Baltic states.
More problematic for Bruce is that the fixtures start on 31 July, with three further ties in August before the six-match group stage kicks off in September. “We have to look forward to European football,” he said, with an enigmatic smile. “We’re going to have to try and enjoy it.
“Whether we’ve got the resources, whether we’ve got the manpower I don’t know, because there’s all sorts of rules and I think we can only pick from 21 players [because Hull have a lack of “home-grown” players]. But now’s not the time to reflect on that, it’s the time to dust ourselves down, enjoy our holiday and come out and play in Europe.”
Pressed, though, he admitted: “A club like ours, I don’t think we’re ready for it. But we’ll have to give it a shot when it comes around.”
Bruce predicted that Hull “certainly need another five or six” players, plus there are several out of contract. It is never easy bringing in players early in a World Cup year, and City have a lot of fixtures to complete before the transfer window shuts, but staying up and reaching the FA Cup final should help persuade players to come to Humberside.
“I hope so,” said Bruce. “That’s always the challenge. We’re trying to get bigger and better. We landed two really big ones last summer: Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore.” The latter is on loan from Tottenham and Bruce added: “We’ve got to try and secure Jake, if we can. We will try our best.
“I will always try to improve and make the club bigger and better. My job is to make it grow. We’re spending a lot on the academy and its job is to produce some young players. But that’s for the future – I’ll probably get the sack by the time it’s all in place!
“We’ve had a wonderful, remarkable couple of years and we were very close to winning the FA Cup – we were 2-0 up against the mighty Arsenal. We have to make sure this isn’t the end of the story. We have to get better; we can’t stand still.”
Bruce took pride in Hull’s performance but, having absorbed Alex Ferguson’s winning ethos as a player, said a loser’s medal meant “piss all” to him. “There’s no consolation,” he said. “We’ve lost. But I’ll get over it. I’ve got over it before.”
That process will start with a holiday. Hull may need players, but the manager needs a well-deserved breather even more. “I have to have a break because I’m absolutely bollocksed,” he said. “You need to as a manager. The demands on you are exhausting, but thoroughly enjoyable. It’s been a great year.”
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