STEVE Bruce has revealed Hull City’s willingness to match his own ambitions was the deciding factor in him agreeing to drop down to the Championship.
As revealed in yesterday’s Yorkshire Post, the 51-year-old, who has signed a three-year deal, began talks with the Tigers last month after owners, Assem and Ehab Allam, made it clear he was their No 1 choice to succeed Nick Barmby.
However, after spending all but one season of the last decade managing in the Premier League, Bruce was understandably wary about returning to a division from which he twice led Birmingham City to promotion.
Subsequent assurances from the Allams as to what support will be forthcoming in the transfer market were, though, enough to persuade the former Manchester United defender that his future lies in the East Riding.
Bruce said: “I have to be honest as, of course, it (dropping down into the Championship) was always the big consideration for me. But I am a football man, through and through, and I wanted to get back.
“As soon as I was approached by Hull, my question was whether they could meet my ambitions and really want to get to the Premier League. It has been a conversation we have had every other day.
“And the blinding thing that has shone through is they do (match my ambition). So that and the challenge of managing Hull stirred me up to say, ‘Why not? Let’s get back to work and enjoy what I enjoy doing’.”
Asked if he saw Hull, who spent two years among the elite before being relegated in 2010 amid crippling debts of around £35m, as a Premier League club in waiting, Bruce replied: “When you look at the Premier League at the moment – and I mean no disrespect here – but the Southamptons, Norwichs, Wigans make me think, ‘Why not?’
“I have signed a three-year deal and hope to make it in that time. It has to be our aim; if it isn’t then we may as well pack up now and go home. We want to get there and then stay there. The chairman is ambitious enough and his son certainly is. I am, too.
“The Premier League is where we all want to be but I had some really enjoyable times in the Championship. Getting a club promoted and then staying in the Premier League is something I hope to achieve again.”
Bruce agreeing to take charge of a third Yorkshire club after spells at Sheffield United and Huddersfield Town early in his career brought to an end Hull’s six-week search for a manager.
It has also served to calm concern among supporters that Hull could lose their way following the controversial sacking of Barmby and the ensuing fallout that saw director of football operations Adam Pearson also leave.
The departure of two men who were popular among supporters meant the Allams came in for stinging criticism from some quarters. An inability of anyone at the club to comment publicly due to Barmby lodging an appeal against his sacking served to heighten anxiety among fans.
Chairman Assem Allam said: “When I bought Hull City, it was not only to save the club from going under but also to make it a club for my community to be proud of. The fact it has cost me £51m did not change my policy of still trying to make it one of the best in the country.
“It is not easy to get someone like Steve Bruce. And, I can tell you, it is very expensive. But Steve is worth all the money. It is an example of our ambition to take the club to the Premier League and then stay there. We want stability now. It is why we have brought Steve to the club.”
Asked if the criticism from supporters had stung, Allam added: “I understand the fans being upset, especially in a situation where we were not in a position to explain ourselves because of the legal restraints. It gives room to rumours and guessing to fill the gap.
“People have 50 per cent of the story but not the rest. I understand human nature and I still love everyone, including those who criticised me. I was waiting until the end for people to see why we were not able to talk.”
Now installed as Hull’s fifth manager in a little over two years, Bruce admits he has several big decisions to make including the make-up of his backroom staff and the fate of several players who will be out of contract later this month.
Among those he plans talks with are left-sided midfielder Kevin Kilbane, who has been mulling over a possible move elsewhere, and long-serving full-back Andy Dawson.
Possible transfer targets are also uppermost in Bruce’s thinking as he looks to improve on last season’s eighth-place finish and mount a serious push for promotion.
He said: “We have talked about budgets and things are in place. One of the first things I said to Ehab when we spoke was that we needed four or five players to add to what we have got.
“So, we will go to work on that and, hopefully, give the fans something to be excited about.”
A priority will be bringing in a goalkeeper with Sunderland’s Craig Gordon already having been linked with a possible reunion with Bruce, who admits to relishing the prospect of making it third time lucky in terms of leading a Yorkshire club to promotion.
Bruce added: “The Yorkshire clubs taught me a lot. When I first went to Sheffield United, I was young and it was an eye opener.
“A long, long time ago but, certainly, (managing the Blades and Huddersfield) gave me a lot of experience and taught me a lot about what management was all about.”