STEVE BRUCE last night revealed Hull City are interested in former Leeds United winger Max Gradel.
The Tigers manager is keen to strengthen during the January transfer window and is monitoring a number of targets.
West Bromwich Albion striker Shane Long, who came close to joining City in September only for the plug to be pulled at the 11th hour, is among those on Bruce’s radar, though - contrary to reports in the national media yesterday - no bid has been lodged.
Celtic striker Georgios Samaras is another that Hull are keeping tabs on but Gradel, who Leeds had been hoping to tempt back to Elland Road before switching their attention to Cameron Stewart and Jimmy Kebe, has worked his way up City’s list of targets in recent days.
As with Long, no bid has yet been lodged for a player who cost St Etienne £2m in the summer of 2011.
Despite that, Bruce said: “I like him but, again, is he available? I am not quite sure if he is.
“If he was available, I would be interested. But it is only just that at the moment. I don’t know if he is or isn’t available.”
Gradel’s career developed hugely at Elland Road. Signed initially on loan from Leicester City towards the end of 2009, Gradel netted six goals in 32 appearances as United won promotion from League One.
It was the following season, though, when the Ivory Coast wideman became a star as he netted 18 times to finish as the club’s second highest scorer.
A refusal to sign a new contract led to Gradel, who Simon Grayson signed for £200,000, leaving England for France, where last season he was a mainstay of the St Etienne side that came close to qualifying for the Champions League.
Whether Bruce follows up his interest with a bid remains to be seen but sources in France say Gradel, who has 18 months to run on a reputed £20,000-per-week contract, could be available at the right price.
Unlike many of the managers near the foot of the Premier League, Bruce, thanks to his team sitting in the top half of the table, is in the enviable position of not having to push through any panic signings.
Asked if he was finding the window difficult, Bruce said: “No, because I don’t have to do much. I will only bring in someone who is going to improve us. If they are not out there, what’s the point?
“It is like puppies at Christmas. Once you have got them, you have got them - so you have got to make sure they are right.
“If the right player becomes available, I will knock on the chairman’s door and get my begging bowl out, as I usually do.
“What I will say is we are possibly a more attractive proposition to our targets than in the summer. We understand we are not the most fashionable club.
“We are out on a limb a little bit (geographically) but the one thing you can’t take away is that we have got a decent team.
“Week in and week out in the Premier League, we have been doing okay. People can look from afar and perhaps think we are a club on the up. That has got to be our aim.”
Bruce’s contented mood was disrupted yesterday morning by the publication of a story in the national media about how a £5m bid for Long had been accepted by West Brom and the striker was in Hull for a medical.
The City manager, who remains keen on Long, felt the story disrespectful the player and his club - just as he had 24 hours earlier when he awoke to headlines of an £8m fee having been agreed with Sunderland for Steve Fletcher.
He said: “I got the shock of my life when I woke up to hear Shane Long is having a medical. I thought, ‘Wow, what has my owner been up to overnight?’ It is simply not true.
“A story like that puts us in a difficult position because we could be upsetting people. If we were to ring up people, they could turn around and say ‘Shove off’.”
Asked if he planned to make a bid for Long this month, Bruce replied: “I am not going to bid for anyone unless they are available.
“We need an indication that he is available (before we bid). Anyway, have West Brom appointed a head coach yet? I don’t think so.
“That is why January can be a difficult one. If he became available, we would be interested. But whether he is we will have to be patient and find out in the next few weeks.”
City, who are without Paul McShane for three to four weeks with an ankle injury, off-loaded Cameron Stewart to Leeds United yesterday in a deal that includes a sell-on clause.
Further departures may come this month with Nottingham Forest hoping to see off interest from Wigan Athletic to secure a permanent deal for Jack Hobbs, who has spent the first half of the season on loan at the City Ground.
Bruce added: “I have spoken with Billy (Davies, Forest manager) and there is a possibility we will look at something permanent for Jack.
“That is a conversation we will have over the next 24 or 48 hours between the two clubs.
“Wigan certainly showed an interest but I think Jack is happy where he is. That is the crux of it.”