STEVE BRUCE believes Hull City’s new £14m strike partnership can make a similar impact in the Premier League to his most exciting signing, French World Cup winner Christophe Dugarry.
The Tigers completed the signing of West Bromwich Albion Shane Long yesterday in a £6.5m deal.
Coming just a couple of days after the arrival of record buy Jelavic from Everton, there is a palpable sense of expectation in the East Riding about how the duo will fare in amber and black.
Hull’s manager shares that excitement and sees the club’s two new strikers as being able to emulate how Dugarry fared when signed by Bruce, then at the helm of newly-promoted Birmingham City, in the summer of 2003
At the age of 30, Dugarry proved a fantastic signing as the Blues beat the odds to stay up in their first season in the Premier League.
The Tigers may be 10th right now, but remaining in the top flight beyond May remains the priority at the KC Stadium.
Bruce said: “I have been a big admirer of both players for a number of years so it is great to have them both on board.
“As a strike partnership, I would certainly say it is as exciting as when I signed Christophe Dugarry for Birmingham. He was a World Cup winner with 55 caps for France.
“He lit the place up, he really did, and I hope these two can do exactly the same. That is why I have spent the money on them.
“I think we have got a terrific deal for the pair of them. I just hope they can go and prove me right.
“What I have said to them both is what I have said to every new signing (since Hull won promotion), ‘Come and express yourself on the biggest stage of all’.
“Hull, to the outside world, might not be that sexy a club, if you like, but one thing you can’t dismiss is that we play week-in and week-out in the Premier League.
“That is all you can do – promise them that opportunity to play.”
Hull fans will be hoping that both Long and Jelavic can make the sort of impact that their new manager envisages. Only one of them, however, will play today at Norwich City due to Long having picked up a niggling injury when playing for West Bromwich Albion last weekend.
The Republic of Ireland international did not travel yesterday with the rest of the squad, meaning Jelavic will be the only debutant today at Carrow Road as Hull go in search of only their second away win of the season.
Bruce admitted in the wake of this week’s record-breaking deals that there would be no further in-coming transfers during the window.
This means the current squad will be given the task of keeping the Tigers out of trouble, something that Bruce feels they are equipped to do.
“Eighteen months ago I drove home from Hartlepool (after a friendly) knowing the balance of the squad wasn’t right,” said the Hull chief.
“If you compare the squad then to now, it is light years apart. That is how far we have come. In terms of the future, that doesn’t just stop because we’ve signed these two players. It has always got to evolve so we can get bigger and better. That is my aim for this club, to make sure we’re here to stay, that we do a Norwich, a West Brom and a Wigan and keep growing. First things first, though, we have got to survive and stay up. I am not under any illusions as to how difficult it is going to be. But we have given ourselves a better chance than we had a week ago.”
Asked if he felt the big money deals for Long and Jelavic had piled more pressure on him to see through the job of keeping Hull up, Bruce replied: “I don’t mind that. My job is always to do what I can. I have got no problems with it because I think it (bringing the two strikers in) is the right thing for the club at this particular moment in time.”
Considering Norwich’s poor form – Chris Hughton’s side crashed out of the FA Cup to Fulham in midweek and have not won in six Premier League outings – Yorkshire’s sole top flight representatives have a great chance of starting a potentially season-defining run of five away games with a positive result.
Today’s meeting with Norwich is the first of five consecutive games on the road that are against teams in the bottom six with Hull due at Crystal Palace a week on Tuesday and Sunderland on February 8.
They then head to Cardiff City on February 22 before rounding off this run of away games against the strugglers with a trip to West Ham United on March 8.
For Bruce, today represents a return to a club he served with distinction before securing a move to Manchester United. The only thing on his mind, though, is getting all three points.
He said: “Norwich are having a tough time of it but any of us in the bottom half can soon have a tough time. We are kidding ourselves if we think we’re not in that bracket.
“All they need is a victory to get themselves out of it so it will be just as difficult to get a result there as it always is.
“Winning at Carrow Road is never easy. We all know how crazy the Premier League can be.
“The one thing the Premier League has got is quality teams and players. Norwich paid fortunes for (Gary) Hooper and fortunes for (Ricky) van Wolfswinkel, so they have got very good players on their day.”
Jelavic’s target: Page 4.