STEVE BRUCE admits Hull City were given such a runaround by Chelsea in the first half-hour of their season-opener that he has refused to watch a DVD of his side’s defeat at Stamford Bridge.
Since then, however, the Tigers have proved to be the surprise package of the Premier League and they will host Jose Mourinho’s Blues this lunchtime in front of the live Sky cameras sitting in the top half of the table.
They go into the game after agreeing a fee with Everton last night for striker Nikica Jelavic. The club will hold talks with the £6.5m-rated Croatian star, 28, over the weekend. Jelavic joined the Toffees from Rangers in 2012, scoring 16 goals in 59 games.
“I watched it once (on the day) and that was enough,” said Bruce when asked about the opening weekend trip to Stamford Bridge that saw Hull concede twice in a one-sided opening 25 minutes where the visitors were totally over-run.
“That was the reality check of exactly where we are in this league. We couldn’t have wished for a harder start.
“It was Mourinho’s first game (back as Chelsea manager) and they came out of the blocks flying. We were caught a little bit in the headlights.
“Thankfully we hung on in there. This group is good like that, they stay with it.
“In the second half, our performance gave us a belief that we can stay at this level.
“There is not many as good as Chelsea and that gave us belief.
“As for why we started like that, I don’t know. Were they nervous and edgy? Perhaps. But that is normal on the first day in a new division. It can be daunting.
“We want to be here. We want this club to be in the Premier League and the players are certainly doing their best.
“I hope Chelsea will see a different team. I hope we can play like we did in the second half.
“We know we have to play well and have an intensity about us to get up and at Chelsea.”
The introduction of Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore, who had arrived from Tottenham Hotspur that week, shortly before the hour mark at Stamford Bridge was the moment when the tide turned in that opening fixture.
Hull’s record signing and the new loanee from White Hart Lane brought an order and control to the midfield that has since played a major part in how well the East Riding club have adapted to life back at the top level.
Huddlestone has been so consistent that England manager Roy Hodgson has been urged to consider the midfielder for this summer’s World Cup finals.
Bruce, who paid a club record £5.25m to bring Huddlestone north from Spurs, has not been surprised by the clamour for his inclusion.
The Tigers manager said: “I don’t think I have seen a more natural two-footed player than Tom. The game is easy for him. Where all of us struggle like hell to become a footballer, he is so pleasing on the eye. It is effortless. He is one of the only players I have ever known who can take a corner with his left foot or right foot. If you ask him which is his best foot, I am not sure he would know. People question his mobility, but he is a wonderfully gifted footballer.
“I think he is most benefiting from playing regularly with us. To be fair to Tom, he had a nasty injury for 18 months, but he has played over 200 games for Tottenham.
“I don’t think there is any Tottenham fan who would argue against the ability he has got. We have given him the stage. We can think we have turned it round for him, but it is down to him wanting to play and enjoy himself.”
Hull’s impressive home record – the Yorkshire side have taken 18 points from 10 games and conceded just six goals – will be put to the test today when Chelsea arrive in the East Riding.
Bruce added: “Our home form has been imperative for us. You need a point a game over the season and we have earned 18 at home with half a season still to go. If we can get another 12 or 14 at home then it sets us up very nicely. We are in the top 10 and we have got some big games away from home.
“No disrespect, but I would rather be going to Selhurst Park and Carrow Road than the Etihad.
“We have still got it all to do (this season). We have to remind ourselves constantly that we are only halfway there. Usually, there are one or two adrift by this time, but there isn’t this year. Everyone has got a fighting chance.
“We have got 23 points and if we can get another four wins and a few draws, that should be enough.
“The big thing is that we have given ourselves a wonderful opportunity, and can we stay here?”
Davies’s spur: Page 4.