THE MANAGER whose CV boasts the most promotions to the Premier League in history believes the key to Huddersfield Town’s survival this season will be an ability to remain positive even when results go against David Wagner’s men.
A trip to Selhurst Park, ironically where the Terriers signed off as a top-flight club in 1972, awaits Yorkshire’s sole representative among the elite.
As opening-day assignments go, it is far from the toughest of trips and Steve Bruce, promoted four times to the Premier League during his managerial career, is hoping his old club can prove wrong the bookmakers who all regard Town to be favourites for the drop.
“I hope Huddersfield do survive,” the 56-year-old, who spent 17 months at the helm of the Terriers around the turn of the Millennium, told the The Yorkshire Post.
“David Wagner did an incredible job last season, playing a certain way to be successful. Winning promotion like they did was a massive achievement.
“But now the real challenge begins. Staying in the Premier League can be tough, as so many newly promoted clubs discover.
“The key thing, for me, after winning promotion is to understand you will lose more than you win in the Premier League and that, at times in the season, there is every chance you will go a month or even two without winning at all.
“If that happens, you have to keep everyone’s heads up. The Premier League is relentless and can crush you if you are not right mentally. Huddersfield will have to be ready for whatever it throws at them.”
Bruce twice won promotion when in charge of Birmingham City, before repeating the trick with Hull City in 2013 and then again three years later.
He kept the Blues up for four seasons after that first success via the play-offs in 2002, finishing 13th, 10th and 12th before returning to the Championship at the end of 2006-07.
A second promotion followed 12 months later, but Bruce quit St Andrews in November of that season to take charge of Wigan Athletic, Birmingham sitting 15th in the table at the time.
Bruce’s third promotion to the Premier League came with Hull, the Tigers finishing as runners-up behind champions Cardiff City.
The following season saw Hull finish 16th and reach the FA Cup final, Arsenal triumphing 3-2 after extra-time at Wembley after the Yorkshire club had earlier raced into a two-goal lead.
Crucial to Hull’s survival in that 2013-14 campaign was a strong start that yielded 11 points from the opening seven games. The Tigers were also still in 10th place at the turn of the year, meaning a slump in league form during the closing few weeks did not do too much damage.
Huddersfield’s start to life back among the elite is not too daunting, today’s trip to Palace being followed by back-to-back home games against Newcastle United and Southampton before the end of August.
Trips to West Ham United and then Burnley sandwich a home game with Leicester City on September 16, meaning Town will not face a genuine title challenger until Tottenham Hotspur head to the John Smith’s Stadium on the final Saturday of the month. In theory, this means the Terriers have a golden chance to lay down a marker by accumulating early points.
“How you start is important,” said Bruce, who also took Hull up via the play-offs in 2016 only to quit two months later. “We managed to start well in the year we got to the Cup final and that made such a difference.
“It will be tough and no one will be more aware of that than David.
“But it can be done. Huddersfield showed that last season. No one expected that, a bit like no one expected us to go up (in 2013).
“We were 60-odd to 1 to go up that season and yet we did it. I’d imagine Huddersfield were a similar price this time last year and that just shows that the bookies don’t always get it right.
“If people are willing to work hard and everyone has belief then that can go a long way. No one gave them a chance a year ago and it is the same now. But David looks like someone who enjoys proving people wrong and that is a good quality to have. The players will feed off that and may yet surprise a few people.”