The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY - BRUCE

trans­fer trou­bles, he is also grate­ful to be in a po­si­tion to buy play­ers at all.

This time last year the Tigers were beaten FA Cup fi­nal­ists pre­par­ing for Europe and a sec­ond sea­son in the top flight. To­day, af­ter a sea­son be­set by bad luck and in­ter­nal strife, they are back in the sec­ond tier.

Bruce adeptly puts rel­e­ga­tion into con­text. “I think 47 teams have been in the Premier League over the last 23 years,” says Bruce, who col­lected three win­ners’ medals with United. “Only eight have stayed there from day one. That tells you the scale of the task.”

Yet he is also wise enough to know that the penalty for fail­ure is usu­ally a P45.“I of­fered to fall on my sword,” he ad­mits. “I said to the chair­man (As­sem Al­lam) ‘If you want me to go, I’ll go’. But he wanted me to stay and re­build, just as I did last time.

“Then, the big thing for me was, did I still have the en­thu­si­asm for it? Out of re­spect for ev­ery­body at the club, I had to be hon­est with my­self about that. And when it came down to it, I re­alised I did.

“Yes, last sea­son was hard. Mis­takes were made. But at the same time, you have to con­sider the cir­cum­stances.

“As an ex­am­ple of the prob­lems we faced, we had Mo Di­ame play­ing on Tues­day for the first time in seven months.

“We paid £8m for Robert Sn­od­grass last year, our big sum­mer sign­ing and record trans­fer fee. He dis­lo­cated his knee 22 min­utes into the first game of the sea­son and still isn’t back.

“We had the per­sonal prob­lems with Jake Liver­more.We lost Michael Daw­son for a sig­nif­i­cant pe­riod.We lost all our big play­ers for more than half a sea­son. We bat­tled man­fully. But un­for­tu­nately a club of our size just couldn’t cope at the end. “That’s what the Premier League is. You can be as man­ful as you like, but you live or die by qual­ity. That was al­ways our prob­lem.”

But not the only one. While Hull toiled on the pitch, 76-year-old Al­lam spent much of the sea­son at­tempt­ing to change the cub’s name to Hull Tigers, a move re­sented by fans and twice blocked by the Football As­so­ci­a­tion.

Al­lam – once loved by the KC faith­ful – has now be­come a fig­ure of de­ri­sion and has re­fused to at­tend home games un­til his de­mands are met. Did it have an im­pact?

“Who knows?” says Bruce, who is un­der­stand­ably cagey on the sub­ject. “But as I’ve al­ways said, when’s there’s sta­bil­ity at the top of a football club, suc­cess usu­ally fol­lows.

“You look at the big, suc­cess­ful clubs – Ar­se­nal, Chelsea, Manch­ester United – and at the top, they’re rock solid.

“What’s sad is that what should have been the hap­pi­est year of our lives, reach­ing an FA Cup fi­nal and qual­i­fy­ing for Europe, was over­shad­owed by the name change. But was it a fac­tor? I ain’t so sure. I can’t use that as an ex­cuse.”


And nor will he look for any this sea­son, with an in­stant re­turn to the top flight al­most cer­tainly a ne­ces­sity for the Tigers.

“I un­der­stand that,” says Bruce, who this week added Scot­land midfielder Shaun Maloney, from Chicago Fire, to a squad al­ready bol­stered by ex-New­cas­tle midfielder Ryan Tay­lor, £3m Brent­ford winger Moses Odubajo and £1.3m Ch­ester­field striker Sam Clu­cas.

“When you’ve been in football as long as I have, you know the game. The way peo­ple are now, the silly sea­son will prob­a­bly start in Septem­ber. I’m sure there’ll be five or six man­agers gone.

“But ev­ery­one is af­ter the money in the Premier League and when you see a newly-pro­moted club like Bristol agree­ing a fee north of £8m for a cen­tre-for­ward, you re­alise the level of com­pe­ti­tion you’re fac­ing.

“It’ll be tough, but I gen­uinely be­lieve our squad – when fit – is as strong as any­thing. I just hope we can keep it to­gether.” And maybe pick up a bar­gain cen­tre-half? “Not for £70,000!” he laughs. “Those days are long gone.”

HEAD­ING OFF: Tom Hud­dle­stone’s re­lease clause will at­tract suit­ors LATEST SIGN­ING: Scot­land midfielder Shaun Maloney has joined Hull from Chicago Fire

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