STEVE BRUCE quit Hull City amid a fatal breakdown in relations with the board over transfers, The Yorkshire Post understands.
The 55-year-old’s departure just three weeks before the start of the new Premier League season has left supporters stunned and the club facing a frantic search for a successor.
As the Tigers begin that hunt, Bruce is, according to those close to him, said to be “devastated” over the turn of events, but felt he had “no option” but to resign.
Hull being one of just three top-flight clubs yet to start their recruitment was behind yesterday’s shock development.
Bruce, interviewed for the England job last weekend but overlooked in favour of good friend Sam Allardyce, had become increasingly exasperated in recent days over the lack of signings.
His relationship with vice chairman Ehab Allam is understood to have become more and more fractious over this inactivity in the transfer market.
Matters came to a head late on Thursday when Bruce, already facing an injury crisis that had claimed several long-term victims, questioned why Hull had failed to land any of his targets. According to sources, Bruce had “grown tired of the fight”.
He informed assistant manager Mike Phelan and the rest of the coaching staff of his decision to quit yesterday morning. They, in turn, informed the “distraught” players before training.
In a statement released last night by the club – shortly before 9pm – the club confirmed Bruce’s departure before going on to say that Phelan would be placed in charge of first-team affairs until a permanent appointment was made for the coming season.
Supporters were left dismayed by the dramatic turn of events and those who travel to Scunthorpe United for today’s pre-season friendly are expected to voice their support for Bruce.
For the Allams, Bruce’s departure means the search for a new manager must begin.
Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs are among the early favourites with the bookmakers, while former Hull player Steve McClaren has also been linked with the position.
In reality, however, such has been the speed of events over the past 24 hours that it is unlikely a shortlist has yet been drawn up.
Whoever does come in has a huge task on his hands with the injury crisis that has left the Tigers with just 11 fit senior outfield players for the visit to Glanford Park meaning resources are already stretched to the limit.
The club’s next manager will also have to follow someone whose four years at the helm have been the most successful in Hull’s history. Two promotions sandwich an appearance in the 2014 FA Cup final and a first competitive foray into Europe.
Last May’s Championship play-off final triumph over Sheffield Wednesday also meant Bruce became the first manager to win four promotions to the Premier League.
Despite that achievement and his relief at guiding the Tigers back into the big time at the first attempt, Bruce warned in the immediate aftermath of Hull’s Wembley triumph that he planned to take time out before deciding whether to stay in East Yorkshire.
Concerns over the transfer budget and the then on-going talks over a possible takeover were behind the former Manchester United captain wanting to take stock.
He did return for pre-season at the start of this month after being told the club’s transfer and wage budgets for the campaign.
Bruce, having adapted his recruitment plans to fit the money at his disposal, hoped the new faces would soon start to arrive as talks began with free agent Hal Robson-Kanu and Bordeaux defender Lamine Sane.
He also made clear a desire to sign Manchester United’s Nick Powell, who had been on loan in the East Riding last season.
Missing out on Powell, who instead opted to join Championship newcomers Wigan Athletic on a free transfer, dismayed Bruce.
Despite that, the former Red Devils defender, always a pragmatist, felt the landing of his list of preferred targets meant that Hull would have a fighting chance back in the Premier League.
The Allams deciding to put talks over a potential £100m takeover by a US-based consortium on hold until after the transfer window, a move revealed eight days ago by The Yorkshire Post, fuelled hopes that impetus would be brought to those recruitment plans.
A week on, however, and the continued inactivity on the transfer front meant Bruce felt there was no option but to stand down.
What happens now for Hull remains to be seen, but fans have called, via social media, for the Allams to revive takeover talks with the US group that is led by former Goldman Sachs managing director Peter Grieve.
Debt owed to Bruce: Page 3.