Tigers pair urged to retain belief over England

Hull City manager Steve Bruce.
Hull City manager Steve Bruce.
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STEVE BRUCE has refuted suggestions that England manager Roy Hodgson sees Hull City as an unfashionable club following the latest international snub for Tom Huddlestone and Curtis Davies.

The Tigers duo were overlooked by Hodgson ahead of the international with Denmark at Wembley next Wednesday, the Three Lions’ penultimate home friendly before this summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil.

The upshot is that Hull’s wait for a first player to represent England at senior level continues, with many supporters scathing of Hodgson electing to chose the likes of Bradford-raised midfielder Tom Cleverley and Cardiff City defender Stephen Caulker ahead of Huddlestone and Davies.

A number have viewed it as a sleight against Hull from Hodgson, who has seen the Tigers just twice this season, in the 4-1 loss at Southampton in November and the 2-0 victory at Sunderland last month.

But Bruce believes that not to be the case and is still not giving up hope that the pair could yet force their way into England’s World Cup party – while also urging the players themselves to keep believing.

On claims that Hodgson may consider Hull to be unfashionable, despite a campaign which has seen them lay claim to being one of the Premier League stories of the season so far, Bruce said: I don’t think so. It’s all about opinions.

“You can only do your best and try to force your way into the squad. For Curtis and Tom to be even linked with it, they have got to stick with it and keep performing, then who knows? I’m sure they are in and around.

“I can only speak based on what I see, and Roy’s got his job to do. Certainly in the midfield area there’s a lot of competition between a lot of good players. It’s difficult.”

Capped four times by England, Huddlestone remains philosophical over his latest omission, judging by comments on his Twitter account.

But his mother Maxine has been less phlegmatic, tweeting her thoughts in forthright fashion, saying: “England squad... same old, same old, pick your players who don’t get a start for their clubs.”

Huddlestone, whose last England cap arrived against Sweden in November 2012, tweeted: “It is a game of opinions, I guess. Still a lot to play for though from now til end of the season.”

After the game against the Danes, England are due to face Peru at Wembley on May 30 before two friendly encounters against Ecuador and Honduras ahead of England starting their World Cup campaign against Italy in Manaus.

Time is running out for anyone hoping to gatecrash the party with every passing friendly, although Hodgson did spring a few surprises on Thursday by promoting youth in the shape of Southampton’s much-vaunted left-back Luke Shaw and Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling.

In his own playing days, Bruce was no stranger to being consistently overlooked on the international front and belongs in that unfortunate bracket of being one of the best players never to win a full cap with England.

The former Manchester United player was up against a host of players in his position of central defence when it came to England representation, including team-mate Gary Pallister, Tony Adams, Mark Wright and Des Walker.

Similarly, some serious midfield congestion has not helped Huddlestone’s cause, with the Nottingham-born player competing against a number of household names, although few have outshone him this season.

On the defensive front, few have shown the consistency of Davies this term and despite England not exactly being blessed with an embarrassment of riches in the heart of the defence, Hodgson has elected effectively to go with what he knows in Caulker, part of a struggling Cardiff side this season, as a direct replacement for the injured Phil Jagielka.

Bruce, whose side are seeking to seal a dream week with victory over his hometown club Newcastle United at the KC Stadium today –– which would complete a seasonal double over the Tyneside club – said: “They have just got to stick at it, stay with it and, as I’ve said before, there’s always a surprise.

“All they can do is keep playing and knocking on the door. It’s difficult because England have got good players.

“Roy’s the only one, he’s the one who knows, but I would have thought he’d have an open mind and there’s still two months of the season left.

“Injuries play a part; we’ll see. “

Specifically on Davies, he added: “Consistency-wise, he’s arguably been our best player, week-in and week-out.

“He can only keep doing that. There might be more twists and turns. If he’s not going to be mentioned alongside me, he better get a move on.

“People debate who is the best player never to play for England. A lot say Billy Bonds; some people, if they are Manchester United fans, say me.

“I actually had the chance. Terry Venables rang me. I think we were playing Nigeria at Wembley and they must have been struggling.

“He rang me and said ‘I want to give you a cap’. “I declined. My best mate Bryan Robson was Terry’s assistant and he was desperate for me to get a cap. I turned it down.

“I was 35, 36 and said ‘I’m sorry, I would rather not have an international career than just have a sympathy cap’.

“In Curtis’s and Tom’s position, you’ve just got to keep at it, but it’s all about one person and that’s Roy Hodgson.

“Management’s all about opinions. In my opinion, Curtis would be in there above Caulker, but I’ve worked with Curtis for the last six months, so I know what he brings to the table. I haven’t spoken to Curtis. All you can do is keep playing well.

“I wouldn’t give up hope. It’s every footballer’s dream to go to a World Cup. Who knows, they might get on the plane to go to Brazil.”