STEVE BRUCE admits he is conscious of the lessons of Hull City’s maiden voyage in the Premier League in 2008-09 – and is determined to avoid a nerve-shredding repeat.
Bruce’s present-day Tigers, seeking their third Premier win on the bounce at home to Aston Villa this afternoon, are sitting pretty in eighth position in the top-flight after six games and are surprising many in the football world, just as Phil Brown’s side did five years ago. Six games into that campaign, Hull were one spot and one point better off than the present-day side, with their high point arriving in late October 2008 when they found themselves in an incredible third place.
After that, the Tigers went into freefall and won just once in 18 league matches – going without three points from December 6 to March 4 – to plummet down the table and become entrenched in a relegation dogfight before securing survival by the skin of their teeth on the final day when results went for them after they lost 1-0 at home to Manchester United.
And Hull manager Bruce insists he is mindful of that history and of the Tigers avoiding being just ‘a flash in the pan.’
He said: “We can’t get carried away. It’s a really good start, but we must maintain it.
“This club couldn’t do it last time. That’s always in the back of my mind.
“A good start helps, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve got to sustain it. We need to get bigger and better, rather than just be a flash in the pan.
“I am convinced we will not be, but time will tell. Taking something from this game would make it a satisfying run.”
Meanwhile, Bruce is urging fellow Geordie Danny Graham to stay mentally strong with the loan forward going into the clash with Villa on the back of a 22-match scoring famine in the Premier League – lasting not too far short of 24 hours.
Despite that lamentable statistic, Bruce has been delighted with the workrate and attitude of the 28-year-old, who joined from Sunderland on a season-long loan in the summer and who remains a fixture for him in the target-man role, regardless of his paucity of goals.
On Graham, whose last top-flight strike arrived on New Year’s Day and who has gone around 1,395 minutes without finding the net in the league, Bruce said: “He’s got to stay strong with it. Every time he doesn’t score, it’s going to get regurgitated week in and week out, but I’m not really interested.
“I’ve been delighted with his attitude and I hope he can get off the mark because he’s a very good player. I’ve been watching him in training and he’s a fantastic finisher. All strikers go through these droughts, but it’s a time when he needs his manager’s support. He’s certainly got that.
“There’s been a lot of talk about him, but I’ve been really pleased with the way he’s helped the team. His link-up play and attitude has been first class. Not scoring doesn’t concern me too much.
“But for his sake, I hope he gets off the mark because his performances certainly deserve it. Him and (Sone) Aluko have done very well together so people will have to be patient. That includes Gedo and (Yannick) Sagbo.”
Convinced fans are backing Graham’s efforts, he added: “Most supporters want to see one thing; a player with pride and playing with heart for the jersey.
“They appreciate he’s a loan player, but he’s putting in a shift-and-a-half. He ran himself into the ground at Newcastle and did the same last week.
“It’s only been six games for us and three of those were away from home where you might not get a kick. If he just gets one goal, which we all know he will do, he’ll be off and running. That confidence soon comes flooding back.”