ONLINE POLL: Standing still not an option as Bruce hits landmark

IN Trencin, the Slovakian town where Hull City should have been kicking off their Europa League adventure tonight only for the game to be moved 45 miles north to Zilina, a rapid transformation is underway.

Hull City manager Steve Bruce.

As far as the eye can see, building work is going on as new bridges, new office blocks and even new platforms at the main train station take shape.

Only the medieval castle that looks down across Trencin from on high appears untouched as, the locals told The Yorkshire Post on a flying visit yesterday, the town is restored to what was once its former glory.

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What a shame, therefore, that Hull City’s Europa League bow will not take place in the town due to the local stadium failing to meet UEFA requirements.

Hull City manager Steve Bruce.

Trencin would, most definitely, have been the ideal place for Steve Bruce, who has done his own incredible re-building job on the Tigers, to chalk up 100 games in charge of the Yorkshire club.

The achievements of the one-time Manchester United captain at the KC Stadium since being appointed two summers ago is clear for all to see.

Promotion back to the Premier League was secured in his first year, an accomplishment he then eclipsed last term by steering City to not only safety but also a first appearance in the FA Cup final.

Arsenal may have ended any hopes of a first Yorkshire Cup win since 1972 by coming back from two goals down at Wembley to triumph 3-2 in the most thrilling final in years.

But the consolation for Hull and their supporters starts tonight with a first appearance in a major European competition.

Bruce, a man so unimpressed by statistics that he had no idea tonight would be his 100th at the helm of the Tigers until told yesterday by the press, is determined to enjoy the experience.

“I have had a really terrific couple of years,” said the 53-year-old when speaking in the media room at the Stadion Pod Dubnom last night ahead of taking training.

“It’s gone as well as anyone could have hoped it would go.

“To be promoted, stay up and have the ability to buy people like Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone, Nikica Jelavic – the list goes on.

“I didn’t think that would be possible two years ago.

“To get into an FA Cup final and into Europe, it’s been a wonderful couple of years. Long may it continue.

“We know there will be a difficult time but the last two years, although it’s been a bit anxious at times, has been thoroughly enjoyable.”

Asked if Hull’s European debut was the ideal place to reach a century of games, Bruce, who has won 42 and drawn 18 of his 99 matches, joked: “I have usually had the sack by now so don’t make it this far.

“Seriously speaking, though, this is a great level to be at but I will only enjoy it if we win the game or get something we can take home with us.

“That is always difficult.

“I have been in Europe (as a player) – a long, long time ago it seems now – and whoever you play is tough.

“We are expecting a tough game and we will have to be at our best to get something.

“And I will only enjoy (this landmark game) if we are able to get a result.”

In a managerial career stretching back 16 years and taking in seven clubs, it is perhaps a surprise that only his stint at Birmingham City brought a century or more of games for him at the helm.

At Sheffield United, Bruce’s first job in management, he took charge 55 times.

At Huddersfield, meanwhile, it was marginally more with his time at the helm being 66 matches.

Considering his popularity levels at the moment in the East Riding and the incredible strides City are making as a club under him, surely Bruce can look forward to many more games in the KC dugout.

For now, though, the priority is negotiating tonight’s third qualifying round first leg tie at the neat and well-appointed stadium in Zilina.

“For all the players’ hard work last year, this is the reward,” said Bruce.

“It is something that if you do well in, it can be the highlight of your playing career.

“It is new to me in management, but our aim is to get through these two legs because we know the group stage has some big, big teams.

“And once you are in that stage, well that is what you play football for.

“Europe is a totally different game to what we are used to and there lies the problem.

“It is different to how we play, but for the club it is magnificent to think how far we have actually come in such a short space of time.

“We want to get through the two qualifiers and then who knows?

“We talked about the FA Cup last year, I said to everyone that we were capable of winning six games

“Unfortunately, we lost the last one. But we were close.

“So, we can do it. The aim, obviously, is to get into the group stage but we know how tough this tie will be.

“The aim is the improve and make sure we don’t stand still. We have had a wonderful couple of years.

“The icing on the cake now would be a run in Europe.”