Hull boss Steve Bruce is the latest to be­moan the cost of English play­ers

The Football League Paper - - INSIDE - By Chris Dunlavy

STEVE BRUCE was 24 when he got his big break, a £70,000 move to Nor­wich from Gilling­ham in 1984.

“Seventy grand!” laughs the Hull City boss. “It was prob­a­bly a lot of money then. But it seems like a dif­fer­ent world now.

“I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber my de­but, at home to Liver­pool. I scored an own goal af­ter 30 sec­onds and another one about 25 min­utes later! The fans must have been think­ing ‘Who is this clown? Send him back!’”

Yet Bruce wasn’t shipped back across the Thames. He stayed to win a League Cup, then pro­mo­tion to the First Di­vi­sion. By the early 90s, the gnarly cen­tre-back was cap­tain of Manch­ester United and widely re­garded as one of the finest de­fend­ers in the land. Not bad for a lad dis­missed by New­cas­tle United as be­ing too small and too slow. Now 54, Bruce (whose £70,000 fee would to­day be worth just over £200,000) re­mains con­vinced there are more like him out there. But af­ter be­ing priced out of the £9m bat­tle for Brent­ford striker An­dre Gray, he is less sure they will ever get the chance to fol­low in his foot­steps.

“For me, there’s noth­ing bet­ter than see­ing a 19 or 20-year-old English lad rise through the ranks like I did,” says Bruce, whose sum­mer was also blighted by the £6m sale of Tom Ince to Derby, one of 14 de­par­tures from the KC fol­low­ing rel­e­ga­tion from the Premier League.

“We’ve seen it this week, with Joe Gomez play­ing for Liver­pool and hold­ing his own against Ar­se­nal. That’s a lad who’d only played 19 times for Charl­ton – what a great story. Then you’ve got John Stones, Jamie Vardy, Cal­lum Wil­son.

“Those lads are out there. I’ve only been back in this di­vi­sion a month and I’ve al­ready seen loads of play­ers who have the abil­ity to make the step up.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the rea­son so many of us buy for­eign is be­cause they’re cheaper. Ev­ery man­ager knows that if he en­ters talks about an English player, the selling club will add noughts. And no­body can ad­e­quately ex­plain why.

“I was talk­ing to a Premier League man­ager the other day. He went abroad and bought six for­eign play­ers be­cause the English ones he wanted cost too much money. Crazy. How can you com­plain about English play­ers not get­ting a chance when that is go­ing on?

“We just tried to buy a goal­keeper that played in League One last year. Un­for­tu­nately, it looks like the ask­ing price is too much. That’s a real shame be­cause we all want to see play­ers step­ping up.


“It’s time to get real.We must start hav­ing a bit of com­mon sense. If we don’t, a lot of promis­ing ca­reers could be sti­fled.”

Bruce is also in agree­ment with West Brom boss Tony Pulis, who this week re­peated his an­nual call for the trans­fer win­dow to close be­fore the sea­son kicks off.

The Hull boss has al­ready lost Ince and striker Dame N’Doye, af­ter clubs ac­ti­vated re­lease clauses in their con­tracts and, with sim­i­lar agree­ments in place for Tom Hud­dle­stone and Ni­kica Jelavic, Bruce is pow­er­less to pre­vent his squad be­ing pil­laged at the 11th hour.

“We’d have no hol­i­days,” he laughs. “There’s an un­writ­ten rule that no deals are done in June so we can all have a break!

“But jok­ing aside, I agree with Tony. The faster you get it done, the bet­ter you can pre­pare for the sea­son. The win­dow should shut the mo­ment the sea­son starts.

“Then we wouldn’t have all this non­sense that I’m go­ing through at the minute, think­ing ‘Am I go­ing to lose two or three? Will I be able to re­place them?’

“When you’ve got peo­ple on buy­out clauses, there’s noth­ing you can do. We’ve got four or five at the mo­ment where we’re bit­ing our nails. All we can do is hope no­body comes in – how can that be right?”

Yet if Bruce is grouchy about his

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

LOUD AND CLEAR: Steve Bruce gets his mes­sage across that young prospects should be al­lowed to flour­ish – as his did when Nor­wich paid £70,000 to Gilling­ham in 1984, inset – and not priced out of moves

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