AFTER twice signing for clubs managed by his father, Alex Bruce has heard all the accusations before.
Nepotism. Only in the team because of your dad. And, what is the manager’s son doing here?
All these and more, Bruce junior is readily aware, were aired 18 months ago when the defender was reunited with dad Steve at Hull City in the wake of his release by Leeds United.
Since then, however, any doubts that Tigers fans may have had about the signing have been swept away thanks to the consistency shown by the 29-year-old defender.
Last season, he made 32 appearances as City won promotion to the Premier League. And, while initially Bruce had to be patient this time around, in the last month he has emerged as one of Hull’s most impressive performers.
The Boxing Day defeat at home to Manchester United was typical, with Bruce comfortably the home side’s man of the match at the heart of a three-man defence. It further cemented the faith the KC Stadium supporters have in Bruce, who is hoping to make his seventh consecutive Premier League appearance today when Fulham travel to the East Riding.
“From a personal point of view, it couldn’t have gone any better,” said the City defender, who started his career as a trainee with Birmingham City when dad Steve was at the helm.
“I am really enjoying myself. I hope I have won the supporters over because they have been very good to me.
“I know it is sometimes easy to say, ‘The manager’s son, what the hell is he doing there?’ because I would probably say the same. I have said it umpteen times.
“It is up to me to try and prove what I am worth and, hopefully, I am doing that now.
“There is always room for improvement but you have got to have confidence in your ability. I always knew I could do it but it is about getting your opportunity and taking it. At the minute, I am enjoying myself.”
Those enjoyment levels would rise significantly if City could take all three points off Fulham today. Results elsewhere on Boxing Day – the bottom three of Sunderland, Crystal Palace and the Cottagers all won – mean the Yorkshire club was dragged that bit closer to trouble despite putting in such a Herculean display against the reigning champions.
On the balance of play and chances created, the Tigers deserved a point – something that Bruce junior came closest to securing with a second-half header that struck the crossbar before bouncing to safety.
With James Chester also wasting a great late chance, City’s disappointment at the final whistle was understandable. It was, though, tempered by a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd and Bruce now wants Hull to take the momentum from that performance against the Red Devils into today’s crucial clash.
The former Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town loanee said: “It would have been nice to come away with a point but, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. It was a disappointing end. When you are 2-0 up, the thought of losing 3-2 is a nightmare.
“But we were playing against top class players and if you don’t take your chances, you don’t get that little bit of luck you sometimes need and things go against you.
“I thought my header was in. I did all I could, the ball just wouldn’t drop in. It was inches away.
“I don’t think it was complacency on our part (that United hit back from 2-0 down), more three good goals from them. People will say we weren’t the best defensively but there was probably two errors in the whole game, the first and third goals, and they took advantage.
“Now we have to lift ourselves for another big match. I don’t think that will be hard to do. We have got a good set of lads who will want to bounce back and do well against Fulham. There is no deflation, not at all.
“Obviously, the lads are disappointed but you win some and lose some in this league. We will dust ourselves down and be ready for Fulham.
“We have got to approach it like we did the Manchester United game and the (home) game with Liverpool. We played really well in both games and we need to go in full steam ahead.
“You hope there is no hangover. You have got to be up for every Premier League game because the stakes are so high. The lads will be raring to go, I am sure.
“You have got to take belief from games like Boxing Day. On another day, we would have come away with a result.”
Victory today over the Cottagers would ease any fears of City being dragged down the table ahead of the tough double of a New Year’s Day trip to Liverpool and the visit of Chelsea on January 11. It would also ensure a fitting end to a quite remarkable year for the Tigers.
Defender Bruce said: “It would be great to end the year on a high. It really has been fantastic for me and the club.
“Who would have thought 12 months ago we would be hosting Man United on Boxing Day and giving them a bloody good game? A lot of people around Hull would have gladly taken that but now it is about kicking on and going again in 2014.”