AHEAD of his first return to Yorkshire since quitting as Hull City manager, Steve Bruce revealed the breakdown in his relationship with vice chairman Ehab Allam meant he should have left the KCOM Stadium earlier.
The 54-year-old brings his rejuvenated Aston Villa side to Leeds United tomorrow tea-time for a Championship game that is expected to attract a bumper crowd of more than 32,000.
Villa have taken 15 points from seven games under Bruce, who called time on his four-year reign at Hull in early July following a series of disagreements with the club’s hierarchy.
The departure of the manager who had taken the Tigers to two promotions, an FA Cup final and the Europa League left supporters stunned, but the new Villa chief insists it was the best thing for all parties.
“I needed the break after all the shenanigans at Hull,” said Bruce when speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post. “With hindsight, I had probably needed that break for a while.
“Me leaving was the best thing for me and the best thing for the club. Things had just got too difficult.
“With Ehab involved, there was a big difference of opinion too many times. That is not a healthy situation for the club.
“We were at each other too often and that is no good for anyone. It becomes wearing and, with hindsight, a parting of the ways had become inevitable for quite some time.
“Ehab wanted to go in a different direction to how the club had been run before. At the end of the day, I didn’t agree with him and that caused disagreements.
“But, it is his club and his father’s club so I had to respect that. I had to respect how they wanted to do things.”
Bruce’s exit came midway through a summer in which uncertainty over potential takeovers dogged Hull at every turn.
However, it was the disagreements with the board – and, specifically, the lack of transfer activity following promotion – that led to the former Manchester United captain’s self-enforced departure.
“We just didn’t see eye to eye,” added Bruce. “It was an accumulation of things that meant we just couldn’t go on. It was doing neither of us any good. More importantly, it was not doing the club any good, either.
“There was also a lot of uncertainty. An American group was buying the club, then a Chinese consortium and, later, it was all off. Working amid that uncertainty was tough.”
Mike Phelan stepped in as caretaker manager following Bruce’s departure. His appointment was made permanent seven games into the season, but Hull are in the relegation zone.
“Of course, I want Mick to do well,” added Bruce. “He is a friend and we worked together closely. Same with the players. It was a big decision to walk away from them.
“It also isn’t easy to resign as a Premier League manager. There are only 20 of them in the country so it wasn’t a decision I made lightly.
“But, equally, leaving was also something I had to do.
“I needed a break, probably more than I realised until I actually started that break.
“I should have done it sooner.”
Hull’s loss has very much been Villa’s gain with Bruce breathing fresh life into a club who were struggling under Roberto Di Matteo.
When the Italian was sacked after just 124 days, the Midlands club turned to someone who had spent six years working across the city at St Andrews.
Bruce said: “Villa is a job I have waited 20 years to get, if I am honest. I maybe thought a job of this size might not come my way, it is certainly the biggest club I have managed.
“I am really enjoying it. It is a huge challenge, but a great opportunity.
“Villa is a wonderful club and it is a privilege to be manager.
“Things have started well and, hopefully, we can build on these results. When I came in seven games ago, we were near the bottom three so there is a long way to go.”
Leeds, with eight wins in their past 12 league outings, will be a tough test for Villa’s resurgent form, but Bruce is looking forward to his first return to Yorkshire since leaving Hull.
“Villa is a huge club,” he said. “We take on another huge club this weekend in Leeds, another club who should really be in the Premier League.
“Just look at the crowd on Saturday, incredible for a Championship game that is kicking off at tea-time and is being shown live on Sky.
“It shows what big clubs these two are.
“I am certain I will get my usual warm welcome from the home fans, but I am looking forward to the game.
“Leeds are doing well, but it is such a long time since the club was in the Premier League and that shows the size of the challenge it is to get back up.
“If a club that size can be out for 12 years or more then it can happen to anyone. That is what we have to remember at Villa. Only hard work can take us back up.”