ALTHOUGH admitting to being “wary” of the threat posed today by a resurgent Sheffield Wednesday, Steve Bruce is adamant that Hull City’s season is primed for lift-off.
The Tigers head to Hillsborough buoyed by a ten-game start that has seen the club slip no lower than sixth in the Championship table.
Despite that and City having twice risen as high as second, Bruce insists there is much more to come from a squad that will soon welcome back Robert Snodgrass and deadline day signing Adama Diomande, who have both been out injured.
“Slowly but surely we are lifting the doom and gloom that surrounded the club,” said the Tigers chief ahead of today’s lunchtime clash at Hillsborough.
“That is normal with relegation. It affects everyone – the players, management, staff, owners, fans.
“There was then a lot of uncertainty as to who would be here and who would go. But, since the window closed, we are seeing the players show the type of resilience that you need again.
“A lot of them have got something to prove. We were all disappointed by what happened (relegation) but the best way to put that right is on the pitch.
“Starting with Sheffield Wednesday, it is seven games in three weeks and then another (international) break. Only then will we start to see who is going to be involved at the top end.
“I expect us – no, I demand us – to be there or thereabouts by that stage. I want us to be up there because I do believe we will get better. The signs are starting to look that way.
“We have got people here now who are knuckling down. All the (transfer) nonsense has left them and they are concentrating on getting on with the game.
“In a way, Mo Diame being injured and Jake Livermore suspended helped us because they have come back into the squad with something to prove.”
As bullish as Bruce is about City’s chances of bouncing back at the first attempt, he is also well aware of the dangers posed by a Wednesday side that has won four games in a row.
“We are wary that they are on a run,” added Bruce, who started his managerial career across the Steel City at Bramall Lane. “Sheffield Wednesday are a big club with big traditions.
“It is a big ground, with history and support, so it will be a good atmosphere. They are also on a bit of a roll with a new manager, a different system, different players. It is going to be difficult from what I have seen.
“They have got a 6ft 7in centre forward (Atdhe Nuhiu), with (Fernando) Forestieri playing off him, the boy (Barry) Bannan in midfield and Michael Turner at the back.
“It will be a very tough place to win.
“They have made good signings and you can see they have made an impact, helping to get them on a roll.
“There is a little bit of impetus behind them now with a new manager and owner.”
For Wednesday, this lunchtime’s clash will be a useful gauge as to just how far Carlos Carvalhal’s side have come since the influx of transfers just before the window closed that helped spark the recent upturn in form.
Carvalhal, for his part, has undergone a crash course in Championship life since being appointed in the summer.
Literally hundreds of games have been watched on DVD by the Portuguese, who spent much of the international break running the rule over Hull.
The Owls chief said: “I don’t know the Hull coach personally, but I know he is experienced and the team is organised.
“I have seen four or five of their games.
“They are a strong team and they have a general identity.
“We understand how they play, but let’s see if we can block them and cause damage to them.”
Bruce, meanwhile, must decide whether top scorer Abel Hernandez should start after only returning from international duty with Uruguay on Thursday evening.
“He scored a great goal for Uruguay,” said the Hull manager. “So, he is cock-a-hoop at the moment.
“But he has been halfway around the world.
“And one of the games he has played in was in Bolivia, in high-altitude.
“That said, from my experience, when a striker is blowing hot, you stay with it. We have waited for him. Abel started off like a house on fire on his debut for us (last season), and we were all thinking what a player we had got.
“Then, though, it all caught up with him. Playing in England, the weather, the food, the language, the whole thing. He found it difficult.
“Thankfully, now he has got his head around and he looks okay.”
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