STEVE BRUCE may have witnessed the infamous hair-dryer treatment several times at close quarters during his days at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson – but he has rarely had cause to give it a blast in his reign as Hull City manager.
Last Saturday at Elland Road proved one of the exceptions and while Michael Dawson was fortunate enough not to be on the receiving end of Bruce’s wrath in the dressing room following a 2-1 loss at Leeds United, the Tigers captain derives no satisfaction from that fact at all.
The best teams and squads win together and lose together and despite Dawson, fit again after a hamstring strain, missing out on last weekend’s defeat to Leeds, the disappointment he felt as Bruce’s regular on-pitch leader was self-evident.
Disappointment in a defeat to a side whose scalp are the ones that Tigers fans probably prized more than any other when the fixtures were unveiled in June was bad enough. But the dismay in players letting themselves, their team-mates and their manager down was even more acute with the hurt all too obvious.
Suffice to say that Bruce will not just be expecting but fully demanding a response against crisis-club Bolton this afternoon.
Dawson, patently aware that Hull’s four-match winless sequence will start inflicting meaningful damage on their campaign if it continues, said: “We’ve got to get back to winning ways against Bolton. We know that.
“The manager was far from happy (after Leeds) and he let the players know that.
“We know as players the standards we’ve set in the last few weeks have not been where we want to be or where we should be with the players we’ve got in the dressing room.
“When you lose a game and you don’t perform to the standards that we know we’re capable of then it’s always going to be disappointing.
“The expectations we have as a group, and what the fans have for a team like ourselves are high. We have to deal with that.
“The goals we’ve set from the start of the season and the standards we’ve set haven’t been hit in the last two or three games, but we will look to bounce back.
“We have had a chat and we know where we want to be.”
Despite a recent dip in results, perspective is also required. Before their home league loss to Derby on November 27, Hull had gone a far-from-unlucky 13 matches without defeat – and were one of the thoroughbred form horses in the table.
Opportunity also knocks over the coming week with three winnable games on paper, starting against Bolton.
The cash-stricken Lancastrians were hit with a winding-up petition this week, with the club understood to owe HM Revenue & Customs £600,000 in unpaid PAYE and VAT.
On the pitch, Wanderers’ plight is bad enough with Neil Lennon’s side propping up the rest with just 12 points – and one win – from 19 league games this term.
While sympathetic with today’s visitors’ off-the-field predicament, Dawson admits that Hull – who have a few issues at the moment given their recent run of form – must show no sentiment when the action gets underway this afternoon.
Equally, given the fact that a complacency charge could have been thrown in Hull’s direction for their performance at Leeds – another side who have suffered their fair share of behind-the-scenes concerns – Dawson insists that the Tigers must afford the visitors full respect.
Dawson, likely to return to the back four today, said: “They are having a lot of difficulties as a football club, but for the players crossing the white line, that all goes out of the window.
“They are playing for their careers so we can’t take anything for granted in this game.
“I’ve never been in that position myself (when you’re not getting paid) but it must be awful.
“They are playing for their careers, whether that’s at Bolton or elsewhere, and they’re professionals. They will be giving their all for the club. We have got to be right at it.”
On the need for Hull to hit the winning trail again, he added: “We have a big week now coming up before Christmas.
“It’s Bolton, Reading and then Rotherham so it’s a big week. This can kick us on again.
“We have got to go on another run now.”