WITH a bucket list of prestigious sports events already drawn up, Steve Bruce could have been tempted to call it a day in football this summer.
Seventeen years in management is always going to take its toil, not least because of the constant scrutiny that comes with working in the Premier League.
So, Bruce thought earlier this season, if an unprecedented third consecutive season of Premier League football for Hull City can be assured, why not walk away at the end of May?
It proved to be just a passing thought as, after talking things through with wife Janet and assessing the job he had done so far in East Yorkshire, Bruce opted to stay and this weekend he will sign a recently-agreed new three-year contract.
“Management is a tough job,” said the 54-year-old ahead of today’s potentially season-defining game with bottom club Leicester City. “Even more so in the Premier League, when you are on trial every week.
“What have you picked him for? Why isn’t he playing? The whole media and social media side in the Premier League means you leave yourself open to all sorts.
“It becomes difficult but the day you stop enjoying it is the day when you say, ‘That’s it’. And I think I’ll know that.
“There hasn’t been a time when I have even been close to that here at Hull. Not close. There was, though, admittedly a bit of me that said, ‘Steve, you’ve had a wonderful three years. Do you keep the club up and say, ‘Thanks very much’?
“But then I thought, ‘I haven’t finished yet’. I have put something in place with the Academy, the scouting and the training ground. I want to see it through to fruition.
“I want to see if I can get this club where I think it can be. This will always be a small club in the Premier League but can we do a West Brom? Or a Stoke? If I can do that and play my part, then I will sail off into the sunset.”
The new contract – which, like his first deal at the KC, includes a 12-month rolling feature that kicks in for the final year – means Bruce will not be leaving any time soon, even if the worst happens and City are relegated.
It means a managerial career that began at Sheffield United in 1998 may well stretch into a 20th year and maybe even beyond.
Asked how long he imagines remaining a manager, Bruce replied: “How long? Look at the state of me now!
“Seriously, it takes its toll. Look at the clubs I have managed, you know you will lose more than you win in this league and that is always hard.
“The big question is, ‘Do you still have the energy?’ I am only 54 and I am constantly reminded what a good club this is.
“There is a lad called Peter Chapman who works tirelessly alongside me. He is an honorary president and works with me for the love of the club. People like that make this the club it is.
“As for the future, I won’t go on as long as Sir Alex (Ferguson). I have been in it 17 years. Wow. And only been out for nine months (after being sacked by Sunderland in 2011). And after Huddersfield.
“When I got the sack at Huddersfield, that was probably the closest I came to giving it up. I became a bit of a recluse. I didn’t leave the house for six months, which is unlike me.
“It was the first time I had been sacked and I thought then that I might go into television and do the media. But for Dave Whelan giving me a chance, that might have been it. At Wigan, I realised within six to eight weeks that not all clubs are the same. The first two clubs I had were so difficult it was frightening.
“Both opened my eyes so quickly to what management is all about. At the time, I was Steve Bruce, the ex-captain of Manchester United. But that didn’t mean a jot.”
At Hull, Bruce has done a remarkable job. Promotion to the Premier League in his first year was followed by an FA Cup final appearance last term along with City’s highest league placing of 16th in the top flight.
This term, he would love to improve on that finish. Victory today at Leicester would go a long way towards achieving that and Bruce admits the adrenaline rush of success is what keeps him coming back for more.
“I spoke to my wife (during the contract talks) and she asked if I needed a break,” said Bruce. “I have always said I wanted to go the Cricket World Cup, a week at Cheltenham or go to the US Masters. But, at the end of the day, this is what I do. I still enjoy it and the day I stop enjoying it is the day I stop.
“There has to come a time when you say enough is enough. It can’t be healthy for you. You still kick every ball and when you go home as a manager you are more disappointed than I ever was as a player.
“I don’t know if this will be my last club. You just never know. I am always for today and see what happens. After Sunderland, I thought maybe that is it. That probably damaged me so badly that I thought I needed some time off it.”
Bruce committing his future to the Tigers means a continuing of the stability that has helped bring the club this far. The City manager, however, wants to go further, which is why long overdue improvements to the infrastructure are under way.
“I would love to see a young one come through,” he said. “It bugs the life out of me that Nick Barmby, a top, top player, didn’t come here until his 30s.
“When was the last time a young one came through? That is why I try to revamp the Academy. For a Premier League club to be playing in category three against, no disrespect, Scunthorpe and Hartlepool, well we have got to get out of that.
“We have made big strides over the last 12 or 18 months to do something at youth level. We’ll make big strides at the training ground as well.
“Basically we want to put something together that enables the club to be better. There has got to be an infrastructure put in place that can make us an established Premier League club. That’s my aim.”