NOT so long ago, a disappointing result against Hull City could be dangerous to a manager’s health.
Luiz Felipe Scolari, then of Chelsea, was one of four managers to lose his job in the immediate aftermath of facing the Tigers in a 16-month spell, the others being Peter Taylor (Crystal Palace), Steve Cotterill (Burnley) and Paul Simpson (Preston North End).
This week, however, it has been more a case of a chairman getting rid of a manager in order to inspire his team to up their game against Hull after Steve Clarke’s reign at the helm of West Bromwich Albion was brought to an abrupt end following a disappointing defeat to Cardiff City.
Interim manager Keith Downing has since taken charge and Hull will be desperate to avoid their fate of last month when Crystal Palace, with soon-to-be-appionted Tony Pulis watching from the KC Stadium directors’ box, triumphed 1-0 against Steve Bruce’s men.
The Tigers’ manager believes Clarke has been treated harshly by Albion chairman Jeremy Peace and his fellow directors.
Bruce said: “Steve Clarke took West Brom to eighth last year, a sign that he is a very good manager. He has a few bad results and suddenly it is him that pays for it, not anybody else.
“I feel for Steve because he has had some awful decisions go against him. I remember he was winning at Chelsea a few weeks ago and had an awful penalty given against them, then they were 2-0 up at Aston Villa and he has had some bad decisions go against them.”
Hull and Albion are separated by four points and four places in the Premier League table.
The Yorkshire club owe their higher standing to an impressive home record and Bruce knows his side need to build on their last performance on the road in a 1-1 draw at Swansea City, a result that earned Hull only their fourth point in eight away games.
To do so, Hull will have to counter a West Brom outfit that Bruce admits will be hard to predict.
He said: “Sometimes a different voice on the training ground has a response from the players, maybe they will get together and say, ‘It was harsh on the manager, let’s put in a performance for him’.
“We played Crystal Palace when Tony Pulis was just in situ and they came up here and turned us over. Whether it is a negative or positive response we will have to wait and see, but we know West Brom have got some very, very good players.”
Hull have enjoyed a fruitful start to December, a month in which the KC Stadium squad was always going to be tested to the limit by six games in 24 days with another to come at Liverpool on New Year’s Day.
Chelsea are also on Hull’s radar in January, while champions Manchester United are the visitors to East Yorkshire on Boxing Day so Bruce’s men are perhaps in for their most testing period of the season so far.
Bruce, though, will not be prioritising any fixtures with the Tigers also due to face Fulham a week today at the KC.
He said: “In my experience the Premier League is always difficult, no matter where you go.”
Bruce, meanwhile, has played down interest in Valenciennes’s Ivory Coast defender Benjamin Angoua, but did not rule out a move for Celtic’s Greek striker Georgios Samaras who will be out of contract at the end of the season.
“I’ve no real aspiration to bring in a defender, I’m looking at the other end of the pitch – but so is half the world,” added Bruce.
“You are only as good as your strikers, that’s the way it is.
“Everyone is aware of the situation with (Samaras’s) contract and I am sure all of us have looked, but he is a good player. But I have not expressed any real interest.”
Hull have rejected a bid from Blackburn for Tom Cairney as his loan at Ewood Park nears its conclusion. The 22-year-old, who came through the ranks at the KC Stadium, has played in 20 games and scored twice for Rovers during a loan spell which is due to expire in January.
A Hull spokesman said: “I can confirm that we have rejected a bid for Tom Cairney.”