STEVE BRUCE last night admitted Hull City could face a big summer of rebuilding following relegation from the Premier League.
The Tigers’ fate was sealed by Newcastle United’s 2-0 win at home to West Ham United, a result that meant the Yorkshire club’s own match against Manchester United was academic.
As it was, Hull were held to a goalless draw despite dominating against a visiting side reduced to 10 men by Marouane Fellaini’s dismissal for an ugly lunge at Paul McShane.
It means a return to the Championship for Hull after just two years among the elite and Bruce, who admitted his side “had not been good enough” to stay up, believes the loss of top-flight status could lead to several players moving on.
Asked about whether the East Riding club will be able to mount a challenge for an instant return, the Hull chief said: “A lot of players won’t want to play here (in the Championship). That is inevitable.
“A lot will want to play in the Premier League, but won’t get that opportunity. So, it is time to take stock and make sure you are strong enough to mount a challenge again because – if you are not – we have seen big clubs suffer from relegation. That is what we have to guard against.”
Several Hull players will be out of contract this summer, including some who helped the club to promotion two years ago. Liam Rosenior, Alex Bruce, Stephen Quinn and McShane are among those whose deals expire.
Talks are understood to have taken place over possible extensions but, as yet, nothing concrete has been agreed and all four are likely to have received offers from elsewhere.
Likewise, Tom Huddlestone, Nikica Jelavic, record signing Abel Hernandez and Dame N’Doye are unlikely to want to start next season in the Championship.
It means a big few weeks lay in store for Hull, who are expected to stick by Bruce after only agreeing a new contract with the 54-year-old in March.
On demotion to the Championship, Bruce said: “At the end of the day, we have all not been good enough, and we have to hold our hands up, and take it on the chin.
“The feeling I have at the moment is one of raw disappointment, not just for myself but everyone connected with the club.
“In August, I thought we were strong enough to cope with the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t been, and me being at the top of it, I will analyse myself before anyone else. This raw emotion is that we haven’t been good enough.”
On the supporters who applauded Hull from the field yesterday in the wake of relegation being confirmed, Bruce added: “These supporters are unique. They gave a standing ovation to the players, despite us having failed them and let them down.
“The message to the fans is a huge thanks from me. The words might sound hollow but, believe me, they are not. They are a unique bunch of supporters who have never had much to shout about. But the one thing they are entitled to do is see their team play in the Premier League. I know how much they enjoyed it, having been in the city for three years.
“A lot of them find it very, very difficult to find the money to get here. But the big highlight of the week was to see Premier League football, and for that, I am hugely disappointed.”
Hull’s fans also came in for praise from Old Trafford chief Louis van Gaal. He said: “I have never had that experience, the fans of the relegated club supporting right to the end.
“I am very sad that a club like Hull City is relegated. I have to give all the credit to Hull City. They were unlucky and (Victor) Valdes saved us.”
Valdes did, indeed, play a pivotal role in keeping out Hull with a stunning save in each half to deny Ahmed Elmohamady and Jelavic.
In many ways, though, yesterday’s goalless summed up why Hull have gone down as plenty of decent approach play went to waste through profligate finishing with David Meyler and £10m signing Hernandez wasting gilt-edged opportunities.
Bruce added: “I have seen them perform like that with the same outcome and that has happened too often.
“We have not been able to score and take advantage. We created enough chances. The simple fact is nearly 50 per cent of the games we have played, we have not managed to score, and we have played with two strikers
“That has given us, unfortunately, too much to do. I am not just criticising the strikers. A team is a team. But, in that respect, it is a pretty damning statistic. It has given us too much to do. Maybe things would have been different if we had scored and put pressure on Newcastle.
“We had two disallowed for offside and didn’t get the rub of the green that could have transcended its way all the way up the east coast. But it wasn’t to be.”