Ince sealed a move to the Rams last July in a £4.75m deal following a successful loan spell at the club in 2014-15 – with the deal sanctioned despite Bruce’s desire to keep the winger.
Financial reasons were behind the club’s decision to cash in on the 24-year-old, who found opportunities hard to come by during his time with the Tigers.
Back in familiar surroundings of the Championship, Ince has again flourished, netting 12 goals for Derby this term with Bruce well aware of the dangers he poses.
Bruce said: “I think I made it perfectly clear at the time that I did not want Tom Ince to go but, unfortunately, the big offers we got were all for our young players.
“(James) Chester, (Robbie) Brady and Ince were all sacrificed, if that is the right word, because you never want to lose your best players.
“Incey is a talented boy, there’s no doubt about that. I hope it does not come back to bite us, but we had to sell to move forward.”
Saturday sees Bruce pit his wits against not only Darren Wassall, who he played with for a short spell during the tail-end of his playing days at Birmingham, but also a footballing sage in Harry Redknapp, who joined Derby in a football advisory role in mid March.
Since Redknapp’s arrival, the Rams have lost just twice in nine games and winning five – including a 4-0 drubbing of Hull – with Bruce of the view that the veteran has proved a shrewd addition to the Derby ranks.
He added: “I am sure that Harry has given Darren some good advice.
“Like any young manager that is starting out, my advice to them would be to get someone with grey hair next to you.
“It does help you. I am sure Harry with his know-how has helped.”
On the merits of play-off opponents Derby, he said: “They have beaten us twice so we are respectful of that.
“But I know one thing, it won’t be 6-0 on aggregate like the two league games.”