Bruce aims to add new highlight against 
the Owls

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THINK Steve Bruce at the same time as Sheffield Wednesday and, for the majority of football lovers, only one real connotation emerges.

That is of the burly centre-half rising for the second of two towering headed goals deep into the depths of stoppage-time at Old Trafford, somehow salvaging three precious points for Manchester United and sending them inextricably on their way to their first Premier League title.

Team-mate Brian Kidd fell to his his knees, manager Alex Ferguson was visibly stunned and thousands of United supporters were sent delirious by the 2-1 victory. John Sheridan’s penalty had given the Owls the lead in the second half, which had seven minutes of stoppage time caused largely by an Achilles injury to referee Mike Peck, who had to be replaced by linesman John Hilditch.

Wednesday are the opponents again this evening but Bruce, in his current role as Hull City manager, is now the twitchy one on the sidelines, relatively powerless to achieve anything once his men have stepped over that whitewash.

Given his long and illustrious career in the game – he turned 52 on New Year’s Eve – is that definitive moment against the Owls the one folk still want to reminisce about the most?

“I think most people, especially if you’re a Man United fan, associate with it,” he says.

“And, of course, it was in ‘Fergie time’.

“Someone just told me recently that that game is 20 years ago in March.

“That is scary. Oh my God... it really is.

“But I suppose in terms of highlights it has to be in there.

“Usually you remember the horrible ones. They’re the ones that stick in your mind.

“As a manager (with Sunderland) I got beat 5-1 by Newcastle.

“I was a player at Man United when we got beat by four in the Nou Camp. It could have been 44.

“I was hopeless. On the big stage in front of 120,000 and thinking ‘this is it.’

“But I couldn’t even kick my own backside.

“So that (Wednesday) has to be up there, of course, as a lot of people do equate it to the turning point for Man United.”

Indeed, after Bruce had scored his second goal in that classic ’93 fixture to clinch the 2-1 success, United ended their 26-year long wait for league glory and with Ferguson at the helm there has been an incredible 11 championships since, not to mention two European Cup triumphs.

However, as ‘turning points’ go, Bruce has witnessed another relevant one of his own more recently which has helped direct the Tigers firmly into their present position of second only to Championship leaders Cardiff City.

Luckless Wednesday were again the opposition. It was early October and Bruce’s struggling side ventured to Hillsborough in danger of suffering a fourth consecutive defeat.

There were certainly signs of early-season optimism fading but they edged a 1-0 victory courtesy of substitute Aaron McLean’s 77th-minute winner and have since lost just three of their following 17 games.

“Our win there was a big moment,” he concedes, while expecting a similarly fraught battle in this evening’s televised reverse fixture.

“The older ones came to the fore for us that day... (Paul) McKenna, (Seyi) Olofinjana and (Andy)Dawson was another one who came back into the team and did fantastically well.

“It was a big ask after three defeats but we went back to the 4-4-2 and stopped the rot.

“It was a major turning point for us.”

Hull, with their rediscovered free-flowing style, have certainly not looked back to the extent that Bruce was yesterday named Championship manager-of-the-month following a prolific December in which the Boxing Day draw with Leicester City was the only one of six games they did not win.

“It’s not ideal because afterwards I usually struggle to win even a corner,” smiled the former Sunderland chief.

“It just shows you. Manager-of-the-month now and this time last year I was on a beach in Thailand.

“That’s how football is. Things turn around for you if you work hard but now’s the time to work harder.

“Let’s get our heads down and keep it going.”

Twelve months ago, Bruce, who started out his managerial career with Sheffield United 15 years ago, was still coming to terms with his sacking at Premier League Sunderland yet now he has assembled a squad in East Yorkshire which is showing all the signs of swiftly returning him there.

He is at pains to pay tribute to the backing of the club’s owners.

The Allams have not always garnered praise from the club’s doubtful fans but they have invested a combined figure of £3.5m this week alone to secure the signatures of gifted loanees David Meyler and Robert Brady on permanent deals from Sunderland and Manchester United, respectively.

There will be more finance if required – although Bruce does not envisage any further activity in the January transfer window – and he said: “They want the club to succeed.

“I detected when I came in (in June) there was a bit of negativity towards them but I hope that has evaporated now.

“I’m delighted for them that we’re at the top end of the league because I don’t think there would be many people outside of Hull who would have put the amount of money into their club that they have.

“You have to be realistic. Without them, I dread to think where this club would be so they deserve a pat on the back.”

That may be true but so does Bruce. Hull City may never rule like Manchester United but with his own form of alchemy, the Geordie is doing his utmost to return them to the upper echelons and with some panache, too.

dave.craven@ypn.co.uk