NOT for the first time this season, Steve Bruce was at a loss to explain a defeat to Burnley.
Back in November, he labelled the Tigers’ players ‘Big-time Charlies’ after a 1-0 defeat at Turf Moor that handed Sean Dyche’s men a first Premier League victory of the season at the 11th attempt.
Six months later, Bruce’s words were more restrained, but there was no hiding his frustration at seeing Hull blow a big chance to move away from trouble.
“I am totally shocked,” was the Hull chief’s verdict when asked about Burnley completing their first league double of the campaign. “We are better than that.
“Whether they were nervous or not, I don’t know. But we have got enough experience in the dressing room to go and perform at the level which we needed.
“It was a big game and a big occasion. I can’t explain it, our experience just didn’t count for anything. From the very first whistle, I thought we were nowhere near the level we require.
“That is the frustration. We looked nervous, edgy, slow to move the ball, slow to get after it. We made silly mistakes, gave stupid fouls away. We produced an awful performance and got what we deserved.”
The loss to Burnley together with Newcastle United drawing at home to West Brom as Sunderland, Leicester City and Aston Villa all won made it a weekend to forget for the Tigers.
With just two games remaining, Hull – who have gone from 12-1 to be relegated to odds-on inside less than a fortnight – must bounce back quickly.
Asked if he had torn into the Hull squad following Saturday’s damaging defeat, Bruce replied: “Listen, what happens in dressing rooms, stays in dressing rooms.
“I think the players know they didn’t perform. They are honest and genuine enough to know.
“When you win a game in the Premier League, you need to have seven or eight players playing well. Against Burnley, we had one or two and that is a sad indictment of a team that is capable of playing so much better.
“We were a shadow of the team that has played recently. That is the hardest thing to take.
“No disrespect to Burnley, because they are a fantastic group of players who give it their all, but we have lost to them twice now. If we want to stay in this league, we have to be taking something from these teams.”
Pressed on whether a lack of determination had been a problem for the Tigers, Bruce added: “I couldn’t say we lacked heart and desire, we just weren’t good enough on the day.
“I know people can say all of those types of things when you get beat. That is often the first thing people question. We just haven’t performed and that is the most disappointing thing.
“The players are down and rightly so. We had a wonderful chance to make a huge, big fist of it, but we didn’t perform and didn’t turn up.
“I take a responsibility, of course I do. I haven’t got the best out of any of them and that is a frustration. We have still got a chance, though.”
Considering how poor Hull were in a game that had been billed as the club’s most important since winning promotion to the Premier League in 2013, the fear has to be that raising themselves for the final two matches could be beyond this group.
Recent history is hardly on the club’s side, either, with Hull having lost all seven of their Premier League meetings against Manchester United, their final-day opponents on May 24.
The record against Spurs, who Bruce’s men visit on Saturday, is only marginally better with one win and four defeats in top-flight meetings.
Bruce, though, is adamant the Tigers should not be written off.
“The expectation, if we’re being honest, we haven’t been able to handle it,” said the Hull chief.
“That is the disappointing thing for me. We didn’t play at all and that is a huge frustration.
“We have seen at times that when we are expected to beat people, we find it difficult.
“But no one is going to expect us to beat Tottenham or Manchester United.
“So, that might give us a better chance.”