Danns has Bruce in sights as he aims for unusual hat-trick

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EVEN with a CV featuring eight clubs, Neil Danns could not have predicted the current run of fixtures that sees the midfielder go up against three of his former managers.

Already, the 30-year-old has one scalp to his name thanks to Huddersfield Town’s 2-1 victory a fortnight ago against a Leeds United side led by Neil Warnock, his old gaffer from Crystal Palace.

Next in Danns’s sights today is Steve Bruce, under whom he won promotion to the Premier League at Birmingham City, before his three-game trip down memory lane ends with Tuesday’s visit to Bolton Wanderers and a reunion with Dougie Freedman.

“It is really strange how the fixture list has worked out,” said the Terriers loanee ahead of today’s televised encounter with the Tigers.

“Personally, I enjoy coming up against an old gaffer, though I do always prefer us to be able to have a chat afterwards with the three points in the bag.

“I was able to do that with Neil Warnock a couple of weeks ago. So, it would be great to do the same with Steve Bruce.

“Steve is someone I have known a long time. I was at Blackburn’s Academy with his son Alex when we were younger so he knew quite a bit about me when I joined him at Birmingham, which turned out to be a good move for me.

“I will always be thankful to Steve for giving me that chance, as it was a big step up for my career. Despite that, it would be great to end this mini-run of facing my old managers with nine points in the bank.”

Today’s tea-time game will see Danns again meeting up with Bruce, who took the midfielder to St Andrews in the summer of 2006 from Colchester United.

The Blues had just been relegated from the Premier League and were determined to bounce back at the first attempt, something they subsequently managed by claiming runners-up spot behind champions Sunderland.

Danns left Birmingham the following season after just two top-flight appearances and since then the midfielder has plied his trade in the Championship.

Three-and-a-half years were spent with Crystal Palace before Sven Goran Eriksson, then in charge of Leicester City, won the race for his services as a free agent in the summer of 2011.

A change of manager at the KP Stadium, however, saw Danns gradually fall out of favour, which is how Simon Grayson was able to bring to West Yorkshire a player he had coveted when in charge of Leeds United.

His debut came in a 1-1 draw with Birmingham City on January 12 but just a little over a week later Grayson was sacked. To a player with less experience, such an outcome could have been unsettling but Danns said: “I am used to managers changing.

“I have been in football long enough to go through it a few times. We are all professional and know how to cope with whatever happens.

“I think we have responded well as a group and in a positive frame of mind. Managers are always coming and going and you just have to deal with it.

“Obviously, the new manager (Mark Robins) has come in and things have started to pick up. The win over Leeds (a fortnight ago, when Danns scored Town’s first goal) was massive.

“The big thing was we deserved to win. Our performance was really good, especially for a team playing away from home. We took the game to Leeds and could have scored a few more goals than the two we managed.

“After such a big win, all you want to do is get playing again. So, the international break has not been something we wanted. All the lads just wanted to play another game and make sure we built on it.

“It can also be a bit of a downer after a result like Leeds to have to break up the squad as a few go away on international duty.

“Having said that, the gap has allowed a few of the lads to have injuries treated while the weather might have meant we wouldn’t have played anyway. It also means we will be feeling refreshed.

“We are up against a team doing well but we have plenty of confidence that we can take into the game from beating Leeds.”

The only downside of the Elland Road triumph came later that afternoon when it emerged that most of their rivals at the foot of the Championship had also won – meaning Town still stood five points clear of the drop zone.

Danns, who has a year left on 
his Leicester contract after the 
end of this season, added: “The results that came through that bit later was the only disappointing thing. It took a bit of the shine off to learn so many of the other teams at that end of the table had won.

“But we also know everything is in our own hands. We control our own destiny and, to be honest, as a squad we are chasing teams and trying to catch them up, not the other way round.

“We know what capabilities we have in the squad and that is why we are looking upwards and not down. If we play to the best of our abilities then we can go places.”

Danns has spent the past couple of days training with the Huddersfield squad at St George’s Park, the Football Association’s new state-of-the-art facility at Burton.

Manager Robins, who expects to have Jermaine Beckford available despite the striker suffering a cracked knuckle on international duty with Jamaica, took the players away as a respite from the snow that had made the staging of a full-size game at the club’s Canalside training complex impossible.

Danns added: “The main goal, of course, is staying in the league. No one is losing sight of that. But, equally, we want to get higher in the table and ensure our first season back at this level ends on a high.”


Last six games: Huddersfield Town DWLWLW, Hull City WLWLWL.

Last time: Huddersfield Town 4 Hull City 0; September 5, 2004; League One.

Referee: D Deadman (Cambridgeshire).