Saturday 23 September 2017

Bruce rubbishes Fulham speculation

Steve Bruce has laughed off links with Fulham
Steve Bruce has laughed off links with Fulham

Hull boss Steve Bruce has ridiculed reports linking him with a summer move to Fulham.

Bruce has grown used to hints of his impending departure from the KC Stadium having been strongly tipped to succeed Alan Pardew at Newcastle earlier this season.

And just last week Bruce was fielding questions about his future in charge of the Tigers after a 3-0 home loss to Newcastle dumped them in the relegation zone.

With his mind firmly on Tuesday night's crucial home clash with Aston Villa, Bruce is determined to give short shrift to the latest suggestions and said they were disrespectful to current Cottagers boss Kit Symons.

Bruce said: "I was getting the sack the day before, and then Fulham want me.

"Unfortunately with the media today I can't do anything about it. The biggest problem I've got with the whole thing is they've got a manager in situ at Fulham and I've got huge respect for Kit who is new to the job.

"I can't comment on it because if I comment on it it just fuels it even more, and as far as I'm concerned it's rubbish journalism."

Saturday's 1-1 draw at Manchester City has provided a timely confidence boost to the Tigers camp and Bruce knows the next month could shape the club's top-flight future.

Games against QPR, Stoke and Sunderland follow Villa and the Hull boss has demanded his players replicate their form against the big clubs in these crucial relegation scraps.

"This cluster of games we have coming up are going to be crucial to us," added Bruce. "We've got to show the resilience and attitude we had at Liverpool and Arsenal and Manchester City.

"That's where we were very good last year - we beat the teams around us and unfortunately this season we haven't done that, and we have to address it over the next few weeks."

Bruce could call both new boy Dame N'Doye and fellow striker Nikica Jelavic to his starting line-up for the visit of shot-shy Villa after both started on the bench against City.

Jelavic is still struggling to shake off a long-term knee injury and Bruce is keen to protect his Croatian striker.

Aston Villa chief Paul Lambert has defended Tom Cleverley but insisted the Manchester United loanee is not guaranteed a starting spot.

The midfielder was substituted to ironic jeers from a section of the home supporters in Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea.

Cleverley is on a season-long loan from Old Trafford and his contract at United expires at the end of the season.

Lambert said there is no agreement with United that the England international will start and he picks Cleverley on merit.

He said: "No, I don't judge whether somebody is on loan. You try and pick a team you think will win a game. I don't pick it through anything else, that is nowhere near it.

"Tom is one of these guys who never hides from the ball. I never criticise anybody for looking for the ball if they make a mistake. It is the same with Carlos (Sanchez) as well and the Arsenal game.

"Tom never hides. He gives it everything he has got, everything to try and do well. He wants to do well here and sometimes that is part and parcel of football. It is not nice to hear."

Cleverley has struggled to make an impact at Villa, with Lambert's side 16th in the Barclays Premier League.

Villa have won twice in 20 league games and Lambert feels Cleverley may be trying too hard to improve his and the team's form.

"Tom has played in massive games, he is no novice. Confidence goes when you don't want to take the ball," he said.

"He has got confidence, it is nothing to do with hiding from the ball, the boy takes the ball and gives everything he has got. I don't think it is that.

"He may be trying too hard which can go against you. He keeps on going with the ball and that is a big testament for him that he keeps doing it."

Christian Benteke could return after he was benched against Chelsea.

The striker has scored just three times this season and Lambert dropped him after his run of poor form.

Philippe Senderos (calf) and Libor Kozak (broken leg) remain Villa's only absentees after Ron Vlaar returned to the Villa squad at the weekend following a knee problem.

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