Steve Bruce has called on Hull City fans to put the issues surrounding a name change and the club’s recent form to one side for tomorrow’s mouthwatering Premier League game with Liverpool.
Home dates with the great names of English football are what playing in the richest league in the world is all about, and what the Tigers strove so hard to make a reality last season.
Now they are among the elite, manager Bruce wants a sell-out crowd to relish the occasion despite the backdrop of simmering resentment about chairman Assem Allam’s proposal to change the club’s name.
The current form of two successive defeats have brought the relegation zone into the rearview mirror and may fill the KC Stadium faithful with fear, but Bruce wants the Tigers’ support base to savour moments like tomorrow.
“Since I’ve walked through the door the supporters have been nothing but fantastic towards how the team tries to play,” said Bruce. “I know there’s some issues about badges and names, but it’s Liverpool at home, a game we’ve been waiting for.
“Let’s enjoy the occasion and the supporters can play their part. When they’re behind the team, it gives us a helping hand.
“It’s going to be difficult, but we need them to play their part and forget about banners for now, and let’s make sure we get points. I’m sure they’re all with me on that as well.”
Last week’s dismal 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace checked Hull’s steady start to the season, with the performance greeted by derision from the stands and a blast from the manager.
That reaction owed as much to how well Hull have started the season, and how expectation about who they should and should not be taking points from have risen.
Liverpool are one of the teams that Bruce and many Hull fans will have circled in the fixtures as a bonus game, with the trip to Arsenal that follows on Wednesday night another when they face an uphill task to be a match for one of Europe’s form teams.
A potential four-game losing trot is on the horizon, but Bruce remains untroubled about his side’s potential to fulfil their ambition of surviving their first season back in the top flight.
And of the many performances he has been heartened by this season, those his side produced at Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are right up there with the best.
“We’ve done well against all the big teams away from home and there’s no reason why we can’t have that same attitude to come and play exactly the same way,” said Bruce. “We need to make sure we have a go at it and enjoy the challenge of playing against Liverpool. That’s what it’s all about.
“I’m looking forward to it because we will be better than we were last week. Whether we’ll be good enough, that remains to be seen.
“But as long as we turn up and give it everything we’ve got on the day, that’s all you can ask for.
“What better way to bounce back than Liverpool at home in front of the watching world? Let’s have a go and enjoy it.”
A former Premier League winner as a player, Bruce knows all about what it takes to prevail in a 38-game season.
Liverpool have made an exciting start to the season, with the freedom Brendan Rodgers has given them drawing the best out of the strikeforce of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge.
Asked if they were the best in England, Bruce said: “Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, Olivier Giroud and Mezut Ozil; there are some great partnerships in the Premier League.
“All of us down there find it the most difficult thing to find, that creativity in front of goal.
“That’s why the likes of Suarez and Sturridge come at such a price and that’s why we’re all scrambling round to find one.
“We’ve been unfortunate because we’re a far better team when Sone Aluko is in it. He gives us that creativity that at times we do lack.”
Bruce is full of praise for the way Rodgers handled Suarez at the end of last season and the beginning of this.
The Uruguayan was banned towards the end of the last campaign for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic and was then the subject of a summer move by Arsenal.
Liverpool rejected those bids and stood by their player, despite his bad-boy reputation.
“You’ve got to hold on to your big players because how do you replace Suarez?” asked Bruce. “To keep hold of Suarez was a masterstroke, however they did it.
“Any manager will make sure you do anything you can to hold on to your best players and just because he bites somebody, it doesn’t make you a bad player,” quipped Bruce. “Although, it might cause you a problem.
“He’s got to be as good a player as there is in the Premier League at the minute. He’s absolutely terrific every time I see him.
“All the big players have got that, it’s what makes them the big players. Take it away from him and he’s not the same player.
“He’s a bad loser but that’s what makes the great players. They’ve got that something that throws them over the edge.”
Bruce met the club’s board yesterday afternoon to begin discussions about recruitment in January, with Nantes’ Serbian striker Filip Djordjevic high on the manager’s wish list.
Huddlestone’s hero: Page 4.