Lessons of past will safeguard future for the Tigers

ONCE you think you have cracked it in the Premier League, that is when the problems can start – as Stephen Quinn knows from bitter experience.

Stephen Quinn

Seven years ago in the first half of the 2006-07 season, life was good for the young Irishman, rubbing shoulders with his Sheffield United team-mates in the big time after his major breakthrough.

The Hull City schemer, then 20, made his debut in the top flight in early December and played his part in the Blades pushing up towards mid-table following a fine run either side of Christmas of four wins in seven matches.

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For good measure, he scored his first senior goal in just his second Premier League appearance, a 2-2 draw with Aston Villa at Bramall Lane on December 11, 2006 in front of almost 31,000 fans.

Positive headlines followed and he readily admits to lapping it all up and thinking the highs would last for ever, mistakenly believing he had made it.

Come the Spring, hard reality began to bite with the Blades finding themselves relegated back to the second tier, albeit considerably assisted by the machinations of the Carlos Tevez affair.

Despite that controversy, Quinn took lessons from that season, namely that you cannot take things for granted in the top flight, with that message particularly pertinent regarding his current club’s fortunes.

The Tigers army who travel the length of the M62 to Goodison Park today on coaches put on by the club for free have never had it so good with their heroes sitting pretty in eighth spot after just two defeats in their opening seven top-flight outings.

Not since 2008-09 anyway, although that ultimately proved a salutary tale as well.

For Quinn, who stepped in for the injured Robbie Brady last time out against Villa, but who could make way for his fellow Dubliner today, it is a case of never resting on your laurels.

Comparing the young Quinn of 2006-07 to himself today, he said: “Back then, I’d be in a baggy shirt and shorts. I don’t think I even fitted into them.

“I was young and fearless and just genuinely thought it was going to last.

“I didn’t think we were going to get relegated because we were in a strong position.

“I took it for granted, maybe.

“Going down the leagues made me realise how good I had it and how much I wanted it back.

“It’s been a hard seven years and hard work to get back here. Now I’m back here, I’m really enjoying it.”

Mindful of heeding the warning of seven seasons ago, given what happened to the Blades, he added: “There’s no point in getting carried away because we also got off to a good start at Sheffield United.

“We had points on the board, but when you go through a bad patch you have to get through it. The Premier League can come round and bite you.”

At the age of 26 and with his former club Blades contemplating another season of third-tier football after a heart-breaking League One play-off final penalty shoot-out loss to Huddersfield Town at Wembley in May, 2012, Quinn was ripe for a change, readily admitting he had gone ‘a bit stale’ at Bramall Lane.

Steve Bruce applied the balm after bringing him to East Yorkshire and the rest, as they say, is history.

Very much a ‘player’s manager’, the last thing Bruce will be doing despite the Tigers’ excellent top-flight opening is cracking open the bubbly.

One thing is for sure. The likes of Quinn and several others who owe the Geordie for facilitating the Premier chance they hankered for will be giving their manager everything to try to stay there.

Quinn added: “I moved at the right time to Hull. I’m fortunate that Steve Bruce took a chance on me. You think not many managers would be looking at the lower leagues.

“I just missed out on promotion in the play-offs and I thought ‘here we go again’.

“We’ve got a manager who has spent a lot of time in the Premier League. He knows the league and he knows what it takes, so we won’t get carried away.

“He never gets too high or too low. He’ll keep us grounded.”

Lauding the Bruce factor, he added: “He’d probably admit this: he’s changed over the years. The game’s changed so much, so the way he deals with players has changed.

“I read an article with Sir Alex Ferguson and he said he’d had to change because players were getting a bit softer, so he had to man-manage them.

“His (Bruce’s) best quality is the man-management and getting the best out of players and getting players here.

“He just makes players feel wanted. If we’re not winning, he’ll tell us straight out what needs to be done. He’ll crack the whip and get us running, but we know it’s in our best interests.”

Quinn is hoping to start at Everton, but if Brady is recalled in his place following hernia surgery, you will not find him complaining. “Me and Robbie don’t look at each other as competition at all. We’re good mates, I’d love to see him do well.

“I’d never wish him bad luck because he’s had a super start to the season. There’s no animosity or anything like that.

“If he can hit the form that he showed before the break, it’ll be great to have him back. He’s exciting. He can really rip up the Premier League.”