ON a night when the biggest cheer from the locals ahead of kick-off is likely to be reserved for the visiting team’s captain, manager Steve Bruce has heaped praise on another Irishman he sees as integral to Hull City’s promotion hopes.
David Meyler, like Reading’s Paul McShane, is a veteran of the Tigers’ last successful push for a place in the Premier League three years ago.
The 26-year-old midfield player has 120 appearances to his name in a Hull shirt, but it is this season when he has truly come to the fore in terms of influencing results.
Meyler’s 12 starts have yielded 10 wins while Hull have also conceded just four times in those dozen matches.
The latest of those victories came last weekend, as Hull edged out bottom club Bolton Wanderers on an afternoon when no other side in the top six was able to claim three points.
“David Meyler has become a very important player for Hull City,” said Tigers boss Bruce when speaking to The Yorkshire Post ahead of tonight’s televised clash at home to Reading.
“A good lad to have in your team, especially at this level. Him and Jake Livermore dovetail together really well.
“If you play against the two of them then you know you are in for one hell of a game.
“Physically, both players are very, very good. They give us a good balance, too.”
When pressed on Hull’s record when Meyler has started this season, Bruce added: “The stats you mention don’t lie and the influence David has on the team is there for all to see.
“He can score goals, he covers huge distances and he puts his foot in. He brings an energy to things that I like.
“David coming back from the injury so quickly to face Bolton may have surprised a few people, but not me. Nothing surprises me with David. He is as tough as they come.
“He wants to play and has that huge desire every player needs to succeed. He had a horrific knee injury a few years ago, but came back as strong as ever.”
The torn medial ligament that will rule Michael Dawson out until late January means Bruce has a decision to make as to who will captain the side.
Meyler is an option, which means the midfielder could walk out ahead of kick-off alongside fellow countryman McShane.
The defender will be back at the KC Stadium tonight for the first time since leaving to join the Royals on a free transfer last summer.
McShane, who was joined in making the switch to the Madejski by Stephen Quinn, had been in East Yorkshire for the best part of seven seasons and became a cult hero among supporters despite a relatively modest total of 119 starts during that time.
This status means the 29-year-old seems guaranteed a warm reception tonight, something that Bruce believes is fully warranted.
“And so he should,” said the Hull manager when asked about McShane’s likely welcome to the KC. “I will never forget the two of them, Paul and little Quinny.
“During my time here, Paul made himself a cult hero. People admired his determination and will to win. He was fearless, a huge competitor.
“That is a quality that supporters will always warm to. I felt the same way. Sadly, he was the fall guy of getting relegated.
“All of the players out of contract were the easiest players to move on. The club had to restructure the wage bills and, of course, Paul and the others were the ones we let go.
“In an ideal world, Paul would still be here, but we already had five central defenders with James Chester (who subsequently joined West Brom) still here.
“I was sorry to see him go because people always admired the type of player he was. I was no different. He did a great job for the club and he will always be welcomed back.”
McShane could be up against Abel Hernandez, who Bruce expects to welcome back into the squad after missing the last two games with a hamstring strain.
“Abel being back would give me the option to put two up front,” added Bruce.
“When we started the run, that is the way we were playing. I enjoy seeing two out-and-out strikers, and Chuba (Akpom) and Hernandez are a handful when they play together.”
Dawson’s injury means Curtis Davies and Harry Maguire are the two remaining fit central defenders at the club, though Bruce admits either Livermore or Tom Huddlestone could be pressed into action at the back if required.
Last six games: Hull WDLLLW, Reading DLWLLL.
Referee: O Langford (West Midlands).
Last time: Hull City 1 Reading 0; August 27, 2011; Championship.