PHIL BROWN admits he was thrilled when Hull City appointed Steve Bruce as manager – even though he had applied for the post at his former club that same summer.
The 54-year-old is eagerly looking forward to today’s FA Cup fourth-round tie between Southend United and the Premier League outfit. It will be only the second time Brown has faced the Tigers since being sacked in March, 2010.
“Steve is an excellent manager,” said Brown, the boss who ended Hull’s 104-year wait for top-flight football when he led the Yorkshire club to promotion via the play-offs in 2008.
“He has a good track record for taking teams into the Premier League and then staying there. That is why I was so pleased for Hull when Steve was appointed, even if I did apply for the job myself (in the summer of 2012).
“Steve was always going to do a good job for Hull City, as he showed in his first year at the KC.
“Winning promotion at the first attempt isn’t easy, I can tell you. But they got there on merit and have given themselves a fantastic chance of surviving.”
Hull, with Tuesday’s crunch Premier League fixture at Crystal Palace in mind, are expected to ring the changes for the trip to Essex.
Bruce, who made nine alterations for the 2-0 win at Middlesbrough in the last round, is definitely without Tom Huddlestone through suspension, while his two new strikers, Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic, are both Cup-tied.
So, too, is Jack Hobbs, who was yesterday recalled from his loan spell at Nottingham Forest.
The Tigers’ priority remains Premier League survival and with just five points separating Bruce’s men in 11th place from bottom club Cardiff City, there is still plenty of work to do.
If the former Manchester United chief can keep Hull up, he will join Brown in an exclusive club as the two men to take the Yorkshire side into the top-flight and then keep them there.
“I would love Steve to become the second manager to do that,” said the Southend chief. “I had four great years there. We built some good foundations in my time and Steve then took up the mantle. Since then, Steve has put his own stamp on Hull City.”
Asked about his friendship with Bruce, Brown added: “Steve being a Geordie, I liked him a lot when I first met him through big Sam (Allardyce).
“We often end up holidaying at the same place. He is a football man, through and through. As a Sunderland fan, I was delighted when he took the job at the Stadium of Light. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and I do think he was treated very harshly.
“It seemed, to a section of the fans, that Steve could do no right merely because he had grown up as a Newcastle fan. That can’t be right; a manager should be judged on his management skills. I did feel for Steve, after how it ended.”
Hull are one of four Yorkshire clubs in action in the fourth round this weekend. Sheffield United’s home tie with Fulham tomorrow is the standout fixture as Nigel Clough’s side look to emulate their feat of the last round when they knocked out Premier League Aston Villa on their own patch.
The Blades will have new signings – Livingston attacking midfielder Stefan Scougall and Cardiff City defender John Brayford – in their squad as they look to claim a second successive top-flight scalp.
Clough said: “Whichever side Fulham pick, there will be a gulf in the ability. If they are absolutely bang at it and we are absolutely bang at it, we will lose. But if they are off it a bit and we play very well, then we have got a chance.
“Because we won well at Villa Park, I am sure Fulham will be conscious there could be an upset.”
Brayford has joined on loan while Scougall has signed a three-and-a-half-year deal with the Blades, who last night completed a swap loan deal with Blackpool, Tony McMahon departing with left-back Bob Harris coming the other way.
Sheffield Wednesday travel to Rochdale, slayers of Leeds United in the last round, with Stuart Gray due to be confirmed as the club’s new permanent manager before kick-off.
Wednesday were held to a 1-1 draw at Moss Rose by non-League Macclesfield before going through after a replay in the last round.
“I can use it as a tool,” said Gray. “To say to the players, ‘Remember those last 20 minutes against Macclesfield when we allowed the crowd to wake up’.”
Completing the quartet of Yorkshire representatives in the fourth round is Huddersfield Town, who host Charlton today.
The Terriers knocked the Addicks out of the Cup a little over a year ago. Manager Mark Robins said: “Having watched Charlton in midweek (when beating Oxford in a third-round replay), they will be a threat. They did really well to get through in the end, especially after being two goals behind.”
Previews: Pages 2, 3 & 4.