CURTIS DAVIES may be a mere six Premier League games into his Hull City adventure, but he has seen enough of Steve Bruce to suggest he is a special one in the managerial stakes.
The Tigers chief has already made the most lasting of impressions on the Londoner, who only joined the club at the end of June. So much so that Davies already rates him as the best manager he has worked under alongside Chris Hughton, even if he is yet to see the Geordie’s angry side – and wants to keep it that way.
When you consider that the Tigers centre-back, 28, has played for eight other managers in his career thus far, including some pretty high-profile ones in Martin O’Neill, Gerard Houllier and Sven Goran Eriksson, that is no mean statement.
That said, Bruce is currently the top English club boss in the country. Who says so? The Premier League table with the Tigers aiming to round off a picture-perfect early autumn against Davies’s former club Aston Villa at the KC Stadium this afternoon with their third top-flight win on the spin.
On the impact made on him by Bruce, Davies, outstanding since arriving in East Yorkshire from Birmingham, said: “I think he’s brilliant. I’ve played with managers like Chris Hughton who was meticulous with certain things; set-plays, passages of play and things like that. But the manager here just has his own way; I don’t know if it’s like an aura or something.
“He’s quite friendly, even though you look at the manager shouting on the sidelines sometimes and you wouldn’t think it. He has that aura and you respect everything he says and you are going to do it for him.
“The manager hasn’t got a chip on his shoulder thinking, ‘We are going to do this and beat everyone in this style’. He just knows how to win games.
“In terms of the best, it’s the manager now or Chris Hughton – just because of the way they do things. He (Bruce) puts a lot of trust in his players to deliver and the squad we have got are able to deal with the challenges and commands he puts on us.
“His man-management is really good, definitely. If you are dropping players from a winning team, a player could get the hump and be a little bit sulky. But he’s done that here and still kept every single lad onside.”
On avoiding any potential hairdryer treatment from Bruce, schooled by the undoubted master of that dark art in Sir Alex Ferguson, Davies added: “Touch wood, I don’t ever want to see it, if I am honest. I heard it a few times on the sidelines. But face to face, I’ve not managed to see the wrath.”
Davies’s current happiness is a far cry from his last few seasons with today’s opponents Villa, whom he left in January 2011 to join their fierce rivals Birmingham. Davies was frozen out under his last Villa Park manager Houllier and prior to that, also suffered under the tenure of O’Neill in 2009-10, culminating in the Northern Irishman, who signed him for £8m from West Brom in the summer of 2008 after a successful season-long loan, placing him on the transfer list shortly before he left the club in August 2010.
While his experiences under O’Neill were a far cry from his current ones with Bruce, Davies insists he holds no personal grudge, despite being disappointed how his Villa career ultimately transpired under him.
Injuries, including a problematic shoulder ailment, did not help matters, although that remains somewhat of a thorny topic.
On his time at Villa, Davies said: “It was disappointing, really. Some of it through injuries and some of it through other things. I went there believing I could really push on to the next level. But I was slightly denied the opportunity.
“When I was fit, I played a season and a half. After that, I did my shoulder and that was sort of it.
“I think I got a fair shot while I was fit. But after that, it seems they had maybe made up their minds after signing (Richard) Dunne and (James) Collins that I was possibly surplus to requirements.
“After my last Premier League game where we beat Liverpool away (in August 2009), I didn’t play another Premier League game at the club.
“I wouldn’t say that it was anything to do with the way I played.
“I didn’t have a personality clash at all (with O’Neill). The manager maybe made his mind up and that was it.
“The biggest disappointment was when I came back from my shoulder (injury), I was itching to go.
“I think I was involved in about four games, and in the rest of them I was watching at home on TV with the rest of the family. It was frustrating that side because at the end of the season people were saying to me, ‘Are you fit now?’ I was saying, ‘I’ve been fit now for six months’.
“But because I was just sitting there, training with the first team and then training with the kids at the weekend, it was pretty frustrating.”
Captain in some happier times at Villa under O’Neill, Davies has also assumed that responsibility at Hull in the absence of Robbie Koren. Not that he knew too much about it ahead of the Newcastle game on September 21 – perhaps another example of the no fuss, no egos or agendas and thoroughly grounded style of playing life under Bruce.
On receiving the armband, he added: “I was (surprised). Because I just thought to myself that if I was going to be the captain the manager would tell me straightaway.
“I literally found out just before we were due to go and do the teams at Newcastle. Steve Agnew (assistant boss) just pulled me aside and said, ‘I don’t know if the gaffer has mentioned it, but you are going to be captain today’. I was like, ‘Yeah, cheers’.
“It wasn’t something I thought about; I just thought it would be Chessy (James Chester) based on the fact he’d always got the armband when Rokko (Koren) had gone off. But it’s a massive honour.”