FA CUP: Bruce dispensing with traditional views in bid to emulate proud dad

Hull City's Alex Bruce.
Hull City's Alex Bruce.
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as a boy, Alex Bruce seemed to be at Wembley every year cheering on his dad to FA Cup glory.

Steve claimed three winner’s medals as a Manchester United player, the clear highlight coming in 1994 when he held aloft the famous old trophy as captain after Chelsea had been beaten in the London rain to clinch a historic double for the Old Trafford club.

Alex was nine years old at the time and can vividly recall the train ride home as the United party celebrated. For a few moments, he got to hold the Cup himself and family photographs of that journey north are still cherished almost two decades on.

Now, though, Alex is determined to create some lasting memories of his own as Hull City head to Wembley for Sunday’s semi-final showdown with Sheffield United.

“The Cup is a competition I have always loved,” said the Tigers defender when speaking to The Yorkshire Post. “It probably goes back to when I was a kid and all those special days out we had watching him play in several semi-finals and finals.

“They are days you never forget and I remember being so proud watching dad lift the Cup. It would be great to finally create some memories of my own.”

Bruce junior’s own exploits in the Cup have undoubtedly peaked with this season’s run to the last four.

He was part of the Birmingham City side that reached the quarter-finals in 2006 but a 7-0 drubbing on home soil by Liverpool means those memories are not particularly ones to dwell on.

That apart, though, his only other Cup experiences of note are 3-1 defeats to Premier League Chelsea (with Ipswich Town in 2009) and Arsenal (when at Leeds United in 2011).

No wonder, therefore, Bruce regards Hull’s first appearance in the semi-finals for 84 years as his chance to finally emulate dad Steve’s achievements.

“The semi-final against Sheffield United is going to be brilliant,” said the 29-year-old, who joined the Tigers on a free transfer from Elland Road in the summer of 2012.

“The main priority all season has been the league and that is how it should be. Staying in the Premier League is what this club has to do and the lads have worked so hard to get us this close. But, after that, the Cup is really important so to get as far as we have this season has been brilliant for everyone. The run has been a big bonus and now we are in the last four we have to believe we can go all the way. Going to Wembley is not something many of us have done in our careers so everyone can’t wait for the game to come round.”

Since the national stadium was reopened in 2007, all semi-finals have been held in north London. The near £800m cost and a need for the Football Association to repay the loan that funded the project has seen to that.

Considering Bruce grew up watching his dad play semi-finals at Maine Road and Villa Park, with only the 1994 meeting with Oldham Athletic that Mark Hughes rescued with a dramatic late equaliser being played at the national stadium.

Having watched United’s four finals between 1990 and 1996 – Bruce senior was in the squad for the latter but did not feature – Alex has always been a traditionalist in terms of playing the semi-finals at neutral venues around the country. That way Wembley is kept special for the final.

Now, however, that Hull are through to the last four, Bruce admits to having had a change of mind.

He said: “I am usually someone who says Wembley should not stage the semi-finals. They can take the shine off the final a little bit.

“I am a traditionalist and think places like Villa Park and Maine Road are much better venues for a semi-final.

“As a kid growing up, that is what I remember watching. My dad played in a few and they were still special days out. The semi-finals were great occasions in their own right, too. But with Wembley saved for the final, that somehow seemed to make the final that bit more special.

“Now, though, that we are in the semi-finals, I have to say that I am glad Wembley is staging the two semi-finals.”

Part of Bruce’s thinking is that despite countless visits to the old national stadium before it was demolished in 2000, the new rebuilt home of English football is somewhere he is still yet to tread.

He said: “I have never been to the new Wembley. Never even to watch a game. I didn’t really want to, because I hoped I might make it as a player.

“I was close at Leeds, when we really should have reached the play-offs. Ipswich was another when we should have got in the play-offs but didn’t make it.

“So, I wanted to wait. Hopefully, I can not get a run-out (on Sunday) and see what happens. It would be great to go two times in a month, too.”

Sheffield United, a club Alex knows all about thanks to his father having started his managerial career at Bramall Lane, stand between Hull and the first appearance in an FA Cup final in the club’s history.

Bruce added: “Sheffield United will really fancy their chances. But so do we. We are going there to win. Make no mistake about that. No-one wants to lose in a semi-final so it is important we are bang up for this game and that we start positively. If we do that, we will have a great chance.”