STEVE BRUCE has urged unhappy Hull City supporters to “embrace these special times” on a weekend that could see two of Yorkshire’s Football League representatives relegated.
The Tigers guaranteed their place in the Championship play-offs earlier this week but that has done little to lift the mood around the KC Stadium.
City’s implementation of a new membership scheme that will replace season tickets for 2016-17 has triggered an upsurge in resentment among a section of fans similar to that which met the club’s attempts to re-brand as Hull Tigers.
Bruce believes this is impacting on the atmosphere at a time when the team badly needs the support of the fans, hence why he wants any ill-feeling to be put aside today for the visit of Leeds United.
“These are some of the biggest times in the club’s history,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “We could be making our fourth visit to Wembley in eight years. Have Leeds been that many times? Sheffield Wednesday?
“Big teams and big clubs have not even been to Wembley in the last eight years.
“But we have a chance to go again. We should embrace these special times.
“I understand the fans’ frustration and, yes, they are entitled to air any grievances. But, please, as soon as kick-off comes round against Leeds, get behind the team.
“We don’t want to see this fritter away. Enjoy this team for what it is. Times like this don’t come along very often.”
The “doom and gloom” that Bruce has felt at recent Hull games may, considering the club sit fourth in the Championship, come as a surprise to supporters of Doncaster Rovers and York City.
Both Rovers and the Minstermen could be relegated today, in the latter’s case out of the League completely if they fail to win at Accrington Stanley. Even then, a point for Newport County at Luton Town will be enough to send York down regardless of the result at the Crown Ground.
Doncaster, meanwhile, will suffer a second demotion in three seasons if Darren Ferguson’s men fail to beat Coventry City at home and both Shrewsbury Town and Fleetwood Town claim the necessary three points apiece.
Such a worrying scenario puts into perspective the on-going troubles at Hull, where a big gripe of those unhappy at the planned new membership scheme is that concession prices are to be abandoned in favour of a flat rate for all ages.
Other critics point to supporters who have occupied the same seat since the KC Stadium opened in 2002 having to move to other areas to take advantage of cheaper rates.
City’s recent stumble in form – they won just once in eight outings before the back-to-back wins over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Reading that guaranteed a tilt at the play-offs – has, of course, not helped the mood in the stands.
A sense of frustration has been palpable, the last home game against Wolves eight days ago seeing Bruce’s substitutions jeered and Ahmed Elmohamady react to a couple of vociferous critics during the first half.
A stoppage-time winner from Robert Snodgrass ensured that particular night ended on a high and Bruce is hoping for another happy ending today.
“Take away the grievances, just for this moment, and let’s go for it,” said the Tigers chief when asked if he had a message for the home fans in a derby crowd that is today expected to exceed 20,000.
“I know people are disappointed, upset or angry. The grievance could be with me, the name change or whatever. But, this team now is trying to get promoted again. We need to be together once the game starts.
“Every other club is excited right now. Sheffield Wednesday fans are turning up in their thousands. So are the Derby fans.”
Elsewhere in the Championship, Sheffield Wednesday could today clinch a play-off place. The Owls travel to Derby County for the lunchtime game needing to better Cardiff City’s result at home to Bolton Wanderers.
Rotherham United could also be celebrating come 5pm, with Neil Warnock’s side knowing a point at Wolverhampton Wanderers would mean even a win for MK Dons would not be enough to save them.
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