ALEX BRUCE is the first to admit he is not getting much sleep these days.
It is not, however, due to the prospect of taking on one of the Premier League’s top marksman today when Southampton and Graziano Pelle come to the KC Stadium.
Nor is it through sweating over whether Hull City will offer an extension to the contract that is due to run out next summer.
No, the reason for the 30-year-old’s sleepless nights is because the recent arrival of second daughter Betsy means the Bruce household now includes a five-week- old and a two-year-old.
Not, of course, that the Tigers defender minds one bit.
He is loving life at the moment, especially with the past couple of weeks having brought a return to the City first team.
“I had to wait for my chance,” said Bruce, who played in the first game of the season but then had to wait for Michael Dawson to be injured before being given a second league start in last weekend’s goalless draw at Liverpool.
“But it is great to be playing again and I just hope I can now stay in the team. Quite a few of the team that won promotion have left but I am hanging on in there.
“I don’t want to leave. I feel like I have played the best football of my career here. I have really enjoyed it and when you are enjoying something and doing well, you don’t want to disrupt that.”
Asked how he could persuade dad – and City manager – Steve to keep him at the KC beyond his contract expiring, Bruce junior laughed: “I am not sure – maybe get him in a headlock.”
Physical restraints might not be needed if Bruce can maintain the form he showed in shackling Mario Balotelli at Anfield a week ago.
The controversial Italian can, on his day, destroy any defence but he was kept largely in check by a City defence that also featured James Chester and Curtis Davies at its heart.
Today will bring another huge challenge, with Pelle – an £8m summer capture from Feyenoord – having already netted 10 goals this term.
Six of those have come in the Premier League but Bruce is relishing the chance to take on not only the Italian but also Shane Long, whom Hull sold to the Saints for £12m in August.
“I was a little bit surprised (when Long left),” said the former Leeds United and Huddersfield Town defender. “He is a good player and Southampton paid a lot of money for him.
“Obviously, we felt the price was right to let him go and I think it was a good opportunity for Shane. It was good all round because he has gone there and done well. I am sure he’s enjoying it.
“Shane did do a good job for us. He is a good player and we know his strengths. He’s very quick, very direct. He did well in our game against West Brom, his old club, when he first came here, so I’m sure he’ll be looking to do the same again. Hopefully, we can stop him.
“As for Pelle, I didn’t know much about him until he came to the Premier League. He scored a good goal against Stoke. He’s done very well to hit the ground running.
“It is not always easy for a foreign player to come to the Premier League, especially as a striker. But he has scored a lot of goals and he is playing in a team full of confidence.”
Bruce’s commitment to Hull is as strong as that of dad Steve, who, despite being linked with the then vacant Fulham job earlier this week, is committed to maintaining the Yorkshire club’s meteoric rate of progress.
Asked about his dad’s link with the Londoners, the 30-year-old said: “I spoke to him about it. He just said that it was a bit of talk.
“Fulham were looking for a new manager, they want to get back into the Premier League. They have probably looked at my dad and seen he has got a good track record of getting teams promoted.
“Whether there was any interest, I don’t know. My dad is happy here, he has worked very hard to build a squad that he is happy with. I can’t see him going anywhere.”
Steve’s 16 years as a manager have given Alex a unique insight into the pressures and travails of a job that, for all that, he would like to have a crack at once his playing career is over.
“It is definitely something I want to get into,” said the Tigers defender. “I know a couple of the lads (Tom Huddlestone and Liam Rosenior) are doing their coaching badges.
“I would probably be happy right now to do them to get out of the house, what with us having a two-year-old and a five-week-old.
“No, seriously, it is often all about opportunity when you come out of playing.
“There are plenty of players who say they want to be a manager but it is about getting the opportunity at the right time and then taking it.
“You have to study hard to get the badges and things, so when you get your first job you have got to make sure it is the right one.
“Hopefully, if I do go into management, that will be the case.
“I realise there are times when the job can be tough. There is the example of my dad at Sunderland. Then, look at Alan Pardew this season. When the muck flies, it certainly does.
“But you take the highs and lows with management. The flipside for my dad to what happened at Sunderland towards the end is how he has come to Hull and done very well. He has done a great jon and I am sure people agree with that.
“I think he has proved overall that he is a good manager. Long may that continue.”