STEVE BRUCE has challenged his Hull City side to grasp one last chance of survival in the two-way scrap for Premier League status that will be worth around £50m to the victors.
The stakes will be high at the KC Stadium tomorrow when the Tigers must beat Manchester United to retain any hopes of avoiding the drop.
Even then, City will need West Ham United to claim at least a point from their trip to Newcastle United to save their top-flight status at the expense of the North East giants. Relegation will cost either Hull or Newcastle £50m in lost revenue, which Bruce admits will lead to a wave of cost-cutting that would put jobs at risk right across the club.
The Tigers manager said: “I’ll admit when I looked at the squad in August, I didn’t think we would be in this situation.
“But we are and it has been a tough few months. What we have to do, though, is take it on the chin and accept we haven’t been good enough but that we also have one last chance to redeem ourselves.
“If we win the game against Manchester United, I really do believe we have got an outstanding chance. But we have to get that win.”
Bruce has been relegated once before in a management career that began with Sheffield United in the late Nineties.
That was at Birmingham City in 2006 and it is an experience that the 54-year-old has no intention of repeating.
“The one thing you don’t want to be involved in is a relegation fight,” he added. “It is nice going the other way but coming out of the Premier League means horrible cuts on everyone. People lose their jobs, their livelihood. Everything is cut back to the bone. It is an awful situation.
“The big problem for any (relegated) football club is the people that it loses. You lose your Premier League status and you lose the money and revenues that comes with that.
“Ultimately there are job losses. It usually starts at the top, I have to say that. But the worst thing is you have to start all over again.
“I went down with Birmingham and the big thing is you want to put the record straight and bounce straight back, which is something we managed to do.
“This, though, is not the time to start talking like that. We have one chance to redeem ourselves this season and we have to take it.”
Sunderland’s draw at Arsenal in midweek made the fight to avoid joining Burnley and QPR in next season’s Championship a two-way scrap.
Just who will prevail between Hull and Newcastle remains to be seen but the bookmakers insists the Tynesiders are strong favourites to remain among the elite.
The Magpies might be in shockingly poor form with just one point from a possible 30 having been claimed by John Carver’s men but City will have to be at their best to beat a United side that has already clinched a Champions League place.
For Bruce, the irony is that it could be his old club that pushes him into the Championship.
“They’re Manchester United and they’re fourth in the league,” he added. “Whoever they play, they have got a top manager and it is going to be difficult like it always is.
“I certainly wouldn’t say they were there for the taking. But, if we play well then we have got a chance of getting a result.”
Newcastle, the club Bruce supported as a boy, will be keeping a close eye on events at the KC and there can be little doubt that an early Hull goal would crank up the pressure among a group of fans already totally disillusioned by recent events at St James’
“It wasn’t so long ago that Newcastle were riding high in the top six of the Premier League,” said Bruce. “Now, all of a sudden, they are in the bottom four.
“That just shows how difficult it is for any club.
“Newcastle have gone into freefall and you have to say congratulations to Nigel Pearson at Leicester because they are the ones who have upset the applecart. Nine games ago they had 18 points.
“A club like Newcastle has gone into freefall but it just goes to show how difficult it is if you don’t do it right.
“I know John Carver and he is a good man.
“He has found himself in a difficult situation.
“I don’t think he’ll want to manage anymore!
“Joking aside, it is difficult and a difficult job for anyone concerned, especially when you are up against it in this league.
“When I first walked into Hull three years ago we had three reporters and a dog at our press conferences.
“Today, you have got the world’s media here.
“That shows what it means to a club like ours to stay in it.”
Match preview: Page 3