THE PRICE IS WRONG
Hull boss Steve Bruce is the latest to bemoan the cost of English players
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
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