STEVE BRUCE last night insisted Hull City will not live to regret the shock £12m sale of Shane Long after pledging that all the proceeds will be ploughed back into strengthening the team.
The Tigers kick off their Premier League campaign today at promoted Queens Park Rangers.
With Long having this week joined Southampton and Yannick Sagbo starting a two-game suspension, Hull head to West London with a severely-depleted forward line.
Bruce is busy attempting to bring in not only a replacement for Long but also a couple of other signings before the transfer window closes.
However, speculation over a possible move for Manchester United’s Danny Welbeck is, according to the Tigers’ manager, well wide of the mark.
A link with Troy Deeney, the Watford captain whom Bruce enquired about in January but was put off by a price tag of around £10m, was also yesterday dismissed by the Hull chief, but last night Sunderland’s Steven Fletcher emerged as a possible target.
On the search for a new striker, Bruce said: “We didn’t have his replacement in mind because I could never have envisaged this time last week that Shane would be leaving.
“But it would be totally wrong to say we have a blank page, in terms of who we want.
“As a manager, you always have to have something up your sleeve. There are always people on the radar.
“Sometimes you can’t get them, sometimes it just isn’t possible. But, make no mistake, with the money we have got that we will invest back into the squad, that will make us bigger, better and stronger.”
From the first tentative enquiry from Southampton to Long signing a four-year deal at St Mary’s, just six days elapsed.
No wonder, therefore, that Bruce has somewhat been caught on the hop in terms of bringing in a replacement for a striker who cost £6.5m just seven months earlier during the January transfer window.
Even allowing for the £600,000 West Bromwich Albion received as part of a sell-on clause included in the deal, the sale represented a significant profit for the East Riding club.
Bruce, who was in full agreement with the sale, said: “It is like anything in football, everyone has a price. That includes Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez. The offer that came in was too good to turn down.
“We will invest that money into the squad to make it bigger and better. We want to find a replacement that is the equivalent of Shane Long.”
Asked if Welbeck – whose reputed £85,000-per-week income is way above Hull’s wage ceiling – and Deeney were on his list of potential targets, Bruce replied: “There’s no real truth in any of them, if I am being honest.
“I am not close at the moment (to signing a replacement for Long) and I have seen things written that are rubbish. A national newspaper ran a headline (on Thursday about Welbeck) and it was ludicrous, pie in the sky
“I have been linked with 100 players this summer and I have bought five. But I have got one or two irons in the fire. Something a little bit different, that’s what we’re looking for.
“Ideally, I would still like at least another three players to come through the doors. With the money we have for Shane, that will allow me to do that.
“We will be active over the next few weeks. Certainly, by the end of the window we hope to have done enough to stay in the Premier League.”
With Long gone and Sagbo suspended after being found guilty last season of sending a message on Twitter in support of Nicolas Anelka’s use of the quenelle gesture, Bruce’s options up front are limited to a fit-again Nikica Jelavic and Sone Aluko.
It is far from ideal so early in a season but the Hull chief is adamant that the sale of Long will prove to be in the club’s interests. He said: “Will I regret it? No, not at all. You have to make decisions and those are decisions that you are judged on.
“In my opinion, the money that we got means we can bring in a replacement and sign one or two others. The fee we got will allow us to do that. Let’s hope it proves to be good business, as that is when we will be judged.
“Sometimes in management, you have to try and balance the books, too. It is not just a bottomless pit. We have to try and generate sometimes and make decisions that can be hard ones.
“The problem we face is that if you turn it down and it gets out in the media, then we know what happens.”
Hull preview: Page 5.