Bruce transforms Tigers
Our Northern correspondent and Hull City fan takes a look at the club’s promising transformation under the unlikely leadership of Steve Bruce.
He looks like Bernard Cribbins, he’s walked out of more clubs than a disco queen, and he seemed like yesterday’s man. Yet, Steve Bruce has guided Hull City to within a hair’s breadth of the top playing what might be the best football I’ve ever seen the team play.
A couple of nights ago I watched Hull City score two lovely goals and see off a dangerous but effectively nullified Wolves side 2-1 in a victory which moved us to up to 4th place. With a third of the season gone, the Tigers seem set for a sustained attempt at automatic promotion.
So hats off to Steve Bruce then and his astute handling of a difficult situation. The Hull City job seemed to be a fall back position for Bruce as the vacant Premier league position he wanted didn’t come his way. Martinez stayed at Wigan and Norwich opted for Hughton as Lambert went to Villa.
Eventually, after weeks without a manager, Bruce was appointed. We don’t know why it took five weeks between Nick Barmby leaving and Bruce being appointed but it’s doubtful we were his first choice. If we approached him earlier it appears that he initially chose to keep his options open.
Bruce took over a side which had, first under Nigel Pearson and then Nick Barmby, been playing patient risk free possession football. Conceding and scoring few goals, Pearson astutely nurtured the development of a skilful disciplined young team.
After Pearson returned to Leicester, Barmby effectively ending his playing career to take over. He didn’t add goals or experience to the squad in the January transfer window and our campaign fizzled out short of the playoffs.
Then out of the blue Barmby was sacked. He’d questioned the Allam’s financial backing a couple of times in the media and they suspended and sacked him for this following an internal investigation.
Then the delay and appointment of Bruce.
In the interim, the very popular and trusted former chairman and then Director of Football Adam Pearson was also relieved of his duties. Following the departure of club hero Barmby, Bruce was not the ‘big name’ manager to suddenly inspire excitement and confidence with the fans.
Personally I feared he’d sign a raft of new players as he’d done at previous clubs, disrupting the young developing team that had emerged over the previous two seasons. His record in the championship was patchy with each notable success matched by failure and walkouts at other clubs. Disturbingly, soon after his appointment he signed his son Alex Bruce, a free agent with a reputation for being injured.
Looking back, Barmby’s sacking seems so unnecessary. It was badly handled by the Allams who through poor PR are not lauded as the saviours they should be after bailing out the club to the tune of £30 million following the disastrous financial management during our premiership seasons.
With an uninspiring manager, unloved owners and with the departure of two well regarded club stalwarts, it didn’t look like we had the set up required to launch a promotion bid. Long odds were available on City winning the league or automatic promotion.
So how has Bruce transformed the tigers into a goal scoring force to be reckoned with? Firstly the Allams stood firm on bids for the talismanic Robert Koren and interest in brilliant young centre half James Chester. They handed Bruce a significant kitty which was blown on Nick Proschwitz (£2.8 million) a target man who scored a few in the German 2nd division. Unfortunately, since his arrival he’s provided little competition, but lots of amusement, for the other strikers at the club.
Bruce did though make a number of astute low key signings: Stephen Quinn from Sheff Utd, Ben Amos in goal, Amdy Faye on a free and the star man this season Sone Aluko from Rangers.
Very quickly Bruce has transmitted his ideas and desired style of play to the players who seem keen to play for him. He has managed to create a solid, stylish team who play attacking football with width and pace. Through clever signings he has added creativity and goals and established a happy knack for beating our Yorkshire rivals home and away.
With our first win at Elland Road in 25 years and a victory at Hillsborough already this season, it’s been a great time for the Tiger Nation away from home this season. And we didn’t just beat the Leeds Utd comedy villains of Ken Bates, Neil Warnock & El Hadj Diouff we teased and taunted them. The 3-2 score line flattered them.
Bruce hasn’t just signed new players, he’s signed them specifically to play in an attacking 3-5-2. Replacing the consistent and committed Liam Rosenior with Sunderland reserve Elmohammody seemed unnecessary, but he’s the most effective, consistent crosser of the ball I’ve seen for the tigers, creating a steady stream of goals since his arrival.
Bruce has transformed Jay Simpson’s Hull City career after it was side-lined by Barmby and Pearson. Given a chance by Bruce, he’s struck up a fantastic partnership with Sone Aluko in attack. And it is Aluko that has been Bruce’s master stroke. Satisfyingly plucked for nothing from the wreckage at Rangers he’s been excellent in each game since his debut; scoring goals, creating them for others and complementing our varied attacking play. He’s anticipating a debut call up by Nigeria very soon.
Bruce hasn’t achieved this by adopting the modern mantra of possession, possession, possession. We keep it on the floor but our pattern of play is simple and unfussy.
Our wide players swing in accurate crosses from the byline, and we have gifted players comfortable on the ball who look to pass it forward and can open up defences through the middle. In central midfield, we have at least two players who can win and distribute the ball effectively. Frustratingly we have developed a worrying knack of gifting stupid goals but the positives more than out way the gaffs so far.
Pleasingly our young players continue to improve, Chester, Dudgeon (prior to injury) and Corry Evans are all first choices and Bruce has managed to quickly change the cautious, patient football of last season into something more penetrative and effective.
Backed by our wealthy but Hull based Egyptian owners the Allam family, Bruce has been allowed to further strengthen in the loan market this week bringing in David Meyler from Sunderland and Robbie Brady for a second loan spell from Man Utd.
The Allams have been publicly bullish about their expectations of the team this season and the Tiger nation are cautiously raising their sights to the automatic places rather than the playoffs.