Yorkshire rivals set for Championship battle

Hull City manager Steve Bruce.
Hull City manager Steve Bruce.
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WHETHER a rookie manager in English football, a promotion specialist with three previous step-ups to the Premier League under the belt or a boss determined to mark signing a new extended contract by making up for play-off heartache last time out, the opening day of the season is one to savour for the men at the helm of Yorkshire’s Championship representatives.

Football is back today and nowhere will that be felt more keenly across the county than in the second tier where our clubs make up a quarter of the field. Two of those, Hull City and Huddersfield Town, meet at the KC Stadium, while Leeds United host Burnley as Carlos Carvalhal’s reign at Sheffield Wednesday gets under way with the visit of League One champions Bristol City.

Rotherham United host another newly promoted club in MK Dons, while Middlesbrough must wait until tomorrow to travel to Preston North End.

For Hull manager Steve Bruce, today marks the start of what he hopes will be a fightback from the crushing blow of relegation last May.

“I have always enjoyed the Championship for one reason – it is a level playing field,” said the Tigers’ chief, who yesterday made Moses Odubajo his fifth summer signing in a £3.5m deal from Brentford.

“No one can tell me now who is going to win the division and that is the beauty of it.

“It is tough, aggressive, honest and genuine – and we have got to be all those things and a bit more.

“I have been in management a long, long time and it is the most difficult summer I’ve had.

“However, it is upon us now and the new season always starts with a bang.

“I still get the buzz. If you lose that, you might as well pack in. But I still have it. I call it a sickness.”

Hull are still hoping to make Andre Gray their sixth signing of the summer despite sources in west London indicating any possible deal with Brentford was off.

Bruce added: “In football, the highs are great but the lows are when you have to dig deep.

“The low of relegation has been difficult, but I never lose the enthusiasm to build a team and mount a challenge.”

Along with leading Hull up in 2013, Bruce twice took Birmingham City into the Premier League.

At the opposite end of the Championship experience spectrum is Portuguese-born Wednesday head coach Carvalhal, who today will make his bow in English football.

Appointed last month, the Owls’ chief has been told by owner, Dejphon Chansiri, that the club’s target is to be in the top flight by 2017.

It is a challenge Carvalhal is relishing, albeit it one he has taken on with his eyes wide open.

Carvalhal said: “I am reading in the news that 95 per cent of the coaches want promotion to the Premier League, League One and League Two.

“But only a few teams will achieve that.

“We must be realistic. There are some steps to do a lot of things.

“I don’t want to create big expectations but, at the same time, I don’t want to break any wishes from the players or the fans.

“What I can promise is we will fight and try 100 per cent to win all the matches. We will try to win and see if we are in the top positions.”

Uwe Rosler is another summer appointment making his bow in a Yorkshire dugout today as Leeds United host Burnley in the televised lunch-time kick-off.

Optimism genuinely abounds at Elland Road at the start of a season for the first time since 2010 and the East German is determined to tap into that feeling.

“In the last few years, the club has had to look backwards as to what comes around the corner,” he said. “But from now we can look forward.

“We need to achieve a togetherness and we need work on that onwards to drive this club forwards and I see very promising signs.”

As Leeds play on home soil, Huddersfield head along the M62 to Hull and manager Chris Powell admits his side face a tough task.

“I don’t follow any school of thought that suggests playing Hull so early on will make it easier,” he added.

“Hull have a squad that largely played in the Premier League last season and a good manager in Steve Bruce. That won’t change whether we play them now or in 2016.”

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka, whose side lost last season’s play-off final to Norwich City, yesterday signed a four-year deal at the Riverside.