HAD Steve Bruce heeded the advice of wife Janet at the start of the summer, Hull City would be preparing for the Premier League season with a new manager at the helm.
Last May, the 55-year-old, after what he readily admits was the “toughest” campaign of his career, led Hull City back into the top flight at the first attempt but it came at a price.
Anyone watching Bruce, with tie loosened and his top button having long since given up the ghost, almost too drained to celebrate at Wembley after City’s Championship play-off final triumph could see that. Janet, his wife of more than 30 years, certainly could and was understandably concerned.
“The closest person to me is the good lady at home,” revealed Bruce when speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post earlier this week at Hull’s warm weather training camp in Portugal.
“When Jan sees me being put through the wringer, she worries. And I do listen to her. She did say at one time, ‘Why not take a year out? You have been going for 40 years now. Take some time out and let’s go do the things we want to do’.
“But Jan, the way she is, also said, ‘It has to be your decision, at the end of the day you have to make that call’. And the lure of the Premier League was just too great.”
Bruce’s decision to stay in the East Riding came after almost a month of soul-searching in the wake of that Wembley triumph over Sheffield Wednesday. There were many factors to weigh up.
“You know yourself, Richard, that I was exhausted by the end of the season,” he said while sitting in the dugout of the training pitch at the Penina Hotel & Golf Resort that was City’s base for 10 days before returning to England on Thursday.
“You saw me every week in my office at the training ground so know what it was like. Not just with what was happening but also because I have lived out of a suitcase for too long. And I had done probably 75,000 miles in the car last year, which is a lot of hours.
“I had a big, long think about what to do. If we hadn’t gone up, I think it might have been time for someone else with bright and fresh ideas to come in. I don’t think I would have had the enthusiasm to carry on.
“But, after a couple of weeks out here (on holiday in Portugal) and spending the first ten days of those asleep on a sunbed, that little thing inside me started burning again.
“We work all our life to get to this level, the best league in the world. There are only 20 of us (managing in the Premier League) at any one time, and four or five British ones. I am one of them.
“It is hard to walk away from the Premier League with (Jurgen) Klopp here along with (Pep) Guardiola and (Jose) Mourinho. I thought to myself, ‘Steve, you can take little Hull to these places and try to compete…’. Having thought about that, I just couldn’t walk away.”
Bruce, about to embark on his 20th season in the dugout, appreciates the huge challenge City will face now back among the elite. The new £8bn TV deal means clubs with already bulging coffers have even more lucre at their disposal, as underlined by around £360m having been spent during the first 16 days of the transfer window.
As if to underline the huge chasm that still exists between fellow members of the world’s richest league, Manchester United are hoping to splash £100m on Paul Pogba – the same amount that is believed to be the asking price to buy Hull.
With that in mind, the Tigers chief is mindful of just how vital it will be that all aspects of the club pull together once the campaign gets under way with the visit of champions Leicester City on August 13.
“I hope the atmosphere can be positive,” added Bruce. “Three of my four years have brought a lot to deal with off the pitch. We have had too many disruptions and it has possibly overshadowedour achievements.
“Look at a club like Sheffield Wednesday. A big, big club that has been out for 16 years. Who will ever forget that support at Wembley? Those supporters were quite phenomenal.
“I just hope we can put name changes, membership schemes, takeovers to one side and pull together for the football. I understand the grievances but we are back in the Premier League and have the champions at home on Sky for the first game. We are back among the big boys, let’s see if we can make a fist of it. And enjoy playing in the biggest and best league in the world.
“It is always difficult but my message to the supporters is the same as it has always been. I will do my upmost to make us highly competitive and try to enjoy the challenge that lays in front of us.”