Steve Bruce says he stands by his comments labelling his Hull City side as ‘big-time Charlies’ after their recent no-show at Burnley – but is confident his players will deliver a reaction in tomorrow’s televised home game against Tottenham Hotspur.
Bruce was livid and offered no excuses for the Tigers’ limp 1-0 loss at Turf Moor on November 8, which he labelled as the worst display of his tenure in charge.
The Hull chief admits few players can be guaranteed their starting spots tomorrow (4pm).
Good news on the injury front sees Nikica Jelavic available after a rapid recovery from a cartilage operation, with Bruce hailing his swift return to fitness as ‘remarkable’ – having expected him to be out until early December after surgery on October 22.
Michael Dawson has also declared himself fit ahead of tomorrow’s reunion with former club Spurs at the KC Stadium after recovering from an ankle ligament injury sustained late on in the draw at Arsenal on October 18.
Whoever takes the field against Spurs, Bruce is sure he will get the response he and Hull supporters are looking for after a rare collective off-day at Burnley.
On whether he sticks by his ‘big-time Charlies’ comment, Bruce said: “I have been in the game a long, long time and sometimes you say things you regret.
“But I would say the same thing again. We did play that game like a load of big-time Charlies. It was as if we would show up, jog around and beat Burnley.
“When you play badly, the one thing a footballer should want to do is put it right.
“Here is a wonderful chance. Right in front of the nation, live on TV and big opposition in Spurs.
“But we are going to have to be at our best to get anything.
“If we are anything like we were against Burnley, then we will get beat by six. It is as simple as that. We cannot afford to play like that very often.
“I need a response from the players and I am sure we will get one.”
One player who toiled more than most at Burnley – a rarity in his distinguished spell at the KC Stadium – was midfield play-maker Tom Huddlestone, who was taken off after 51 minutes and who later described his performance as “shocking all around.”
After hitting the heights last season, the 27-year-old has been afforded a reality check this term with his ever-present record under threat ahead of tomorrow’s game with former club Spurs.
But Bruce for one believes it would be wrong to single anybody out and has afforded a sense of perspective, with many supporters having taken to social media and the airwaves to press his case for an England recall just 12 months ago.
Bruce added: “It is unfair to criticise individuals. Tom has set really high standards and when you set the standards he has, when you fall below them you will come under criticism.
“It is wrong if Tom is at the hub of it because he has done so well for us. It was only this time last year there was a clamour to get him in the England squad.”
While tomorrow’s game pits Huddlestone and Jake Livermore against their old employers, the game will take on extra special resonance for Dawson, aiming to line up against his former side for the first time since his £3.5m move from White Hart Lane in late August.
With 12th-placed Spurs having had an undistinguished Premier League season so far, while also conceding 16 goals – only six top-flight rivals have a worse goals against record – an increasing number of supporters are starting to believe that Mauricio Pochettino made a mistake in selling their former captain.
For Bruce, it is very much a case of Spurs’ loss being Hull’s gain regarding acquiring Dawson, who has fitted in seamlessly at the back. The Hull chief believes the 31-year-old has several more seasons at the top – and is possibly at his prime.
On Spurs possibly regretting selling Dawson, who played over 300 games for the club, Bruce added: “That is not for me to make that comment, but I was delighted to get him here.
“When he got injured against Arsenal, he was just starting to get into his best form.
“He had nothing to prove to anyone coming here. He is only just turned 31 this week and he’s got years ahead of him.
“I found it easiest as a defender when I was between 30 and 35. You mature and you get better with age.
“Looking back at my career, the outstanding season I had was when I was around 32.
“That is when it seemed to click into place for me and I found it easier to read the game.”