Sunday 21 January 2018

Bruce coy on continuing his sorcery with newly-promoted Hull

Hull City 1 Sheffield Wednesday 0

Hull City's Abel Hernandez celebrates with the trophy after the Championship Play-Off final at Wembley. Photo: Nigel French/PA
Hull City's Abel Hernandez celebrates with the trophy after the Championship Play-Off final at Wembley. Photo: Nigel French/PA
Hull City's Sam Clucas (right) and Sheffield Wednesday's Jack Hunt battle for the ball during the Championship Play-Off fina. Photo: Nick Potts/PA
Hull City manager Steve Bruce celebrates after the Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley. Photo: Nigel French/PA
Sheffield Wednesday's Vincent Sasso appears dejected after the Championship Play-Off final. Photo: Nick Potts/PA

Oliver Brown

It is a very particular form of alchemy, but Steve Bruce is proving to be Il Padrone of promotions.

Courtesy of Mohamed Diamé's wondrous second-half winner for Hull City, the 55-year-old has elevated clubs to the Premier League on four occasions - twice with Hull, twice with Birmingham City, and twice more than any other manager.

The worry this time, though, is whether the former Manchester United captain will be in position long enough to savour the fruits of his labours.

Bruce, stopping to shake the hand of every vanquished Sheffield Wednesday player, toasted this triumph with a telling lack of exuberance.

Assem Allam, the club's Egyptian owner, lay gravely ill in hospital, amid suggestions that Hull would soon be subject to a takeover.

It is understood that a tentative agreement has been reached with a consortium of American investors, with Bruce explaining that he needed a meeting with the Allam family before making any commitment on his future.

The elder Allam has often been a controversial figure at Hull, provoking much ire through his attempt to rebrand the club as Hull Tigers, but Bruce - whose offer to resign after last season's relegation was refused - argued that he deserved praise for his strength of loyalty.

"This is for the chairman," he said. "He was hell-bent on a name change that unfortunately upset a lot of people. Really, though, his four-year tenure is there for everyone to see. Thankfully, he didn't want me to go."

Allam first put Hull up for sale in 2014 and has since delegated the day-to-day running of the club to his son, Ehab. He has also said publicly that he no longer wanted Hull to be financially dependent on his fortune.

Bruce said that he would take his time before contemplating his next step. "I'll sit down with the owners - it's not often you walk away from the Premier League, and that's where I want to manage," he said.

"But I have to be given certain assurances that we're all moving in the right direction. I keep hearing too many stories that there's a takeover imminent."

Hull stand poised, with Burnley and Middlesbrough, to plunder their share of the Premier League's £5.14bn (€6.75bn) domestic TV rights deal, with more than £300m guaranteed if they stay up beyond next season.

The challenge is to end the endless fluctuations, with two promotions and two relegations in eight years offering little hope that the future will be any less precarious.

Only twice in the past 14 seasons has at least one of the Championship's three promoted clubs not gone straight down, although Bruce sought to be optimistic.

"If we do things properly, then we can improve the club no end," he said. "We have got to build the infrastructure for a club like ours. Let's hope we can invest wisely."

Bruce represents an emphatic rebuke to the notion that protégés of Alex Ferguson are fated to struggle in management.

Where a plethora of his former team-mates at Manchester United, from Roy Keane to Ryan Giggs, have toiled, Bruce continues to perfect his own quiet form of sorcery.

While Hull missed numerous chances on Saturday, Diamé's sumptuous 25-yard goal brought Bruce a deep relief, not to mention a certain compensation for losing a 2-0 lead to Arsenal in the FA Cup final two years ago.

He was quick to praise the match-winner. "Diamé produced that bit of magic we needed," Bruce said.

"It has been a tough season for him with a knee injury, so I am thrilled for him." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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