STEVE BRUCE expects his Hull City players to exploit what is expected to be a poisonous atmosphere at St James’ Park today.
Newcastle United supporters have spent all week orchestrating protests designed to drive out beleaguered manager Alan Pardew.
Thirty thousand A4 cards have been printed by organisers, while another 100 larger banners – complete with fire certificate, to ensure they can be taken into St James’ Park – urging the Toon board to sack Pardew will be handed out at designated places around the city centre.
For Hull fans, the protests will be nothing new with the club’s 2008 visit – a game they won 2-1 – being played out to similar antipathy in the stands as the locals voiced their protests over Kevin Keegan’s exit at the hands of the “Cockney Mafia” of chairman Mike Ashley and then director of football Dennis Wise.
An identical result today would do nicely and Bruce, put forward in the media as a possible candidate to replace Pardew, is determined the Tigers take advantage of today’s off-field events.
The City manager, a Newcastle fan as a boy, said: “Can we take advantage of what has become a very difficult situation? Make no mistake, it is a very difficult situation. There is no denying that, he (Pardew) is not denying it.
“That is the nature of the beast in the North East. There is huge expectation. Why always baffles me. but there is. The most important thing, though, is we take advantage of it. We have to start well, certainly better than our last away game (at Aston Villa).”
Newcastle’s 4-0 defeat at Southampton a week ago led to the protests against Pardew being stepped up as his side slumped to the foot of the Premier League.
It also sparked the speculation about Bruce, as a native Geordie, being considered as a possible replacement along with David Moyes and Steve McClaren.
On the links, the Hull manager said: “I find it hugely disrespectful. I turned it down in 2004 after Sir Bobby (Robson) left because the timing wasn’t right.
“Since that day, it always seems that my name gets linked with it. What can I do? I have tried to stop it? I know from my own experience at Sunderland how difficult a situation it can be in the North East. Two or three years ago, it was exactly the same for me. It is awful. I know what he is going through.
“To be linked with his job last week, that was disappointing. That is the God’s honest truth because I know how difficult it is to manage up there.
“All managers, we know what goes with the territory. Everybody on the outside thinks you get your money anyway and all the rest of it. But it is a dark place to be. It affects everyone around you, your family and your mates. The whole thing gets embroiled in it. I hope he (Pardew) pulls through it. After we have played them.
“All I am interested in is how we play and can we take advantage of the situation. All the other stuff is nonsense.”
Pressed further on whether he would consider walking away from Hull should the manager’s job at his boyhood club become available, Bruce replied: “It doesn’t even enter my head.
“It is all irrelevant. I am happy here. Two weeks ago, I brought in four players. I had brought in another five during the summer.
“We are in a good place at the moment. We are still a work in progress – we’ve got to work on the squad, the infrastructure, the academy and all those things. I am very very happy doing what I am doing. That is the way it is.”
As for Pardew, he admits to bracing himself for a hostile afternoon on Tyneside.
He said: “Of course (I expect stick). You don’t expect me to wave to the crowd and say, ‘Hi everyone, I’m happy, how are you today?’. That’s not happening.
“But it can also make you stronger. It can make the players stronger, too. We have talked about the Cardiff game (when protests were held against the club’s management last season) and coming through that.
“We knew before that game how much pressure there would be. There was more pressure on the players that day than on me.
“I don’t feel nervous at the moment, no. And I am not in fear of it, either.”
Page 5: Ben Arfa interview.