SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY supporters wanting an insight into what can be expected when Steve Bruce takes charge next month could do a lot worse this Saturday afternoon than seek the counsel of the locals in Hull.
To the Tigers, the new Owls chief is quite simply the most successful manager in their history.
Two promotions to the Premier League, an FA Cup final appearance and a brief foray into European competition all came during Bruce’s four-year reign in the East Riding.
Wednesday, fast approaching 19 years out of the top flight, are looking for a similar uplift in fortunes.
But how will Bruce set about such a task? And what sort of football can Hillsborough expect in the Championship once the 58-year-old gets to grips with the job?
Steve Agnew, who along with Stephen Clemence is manning the team until Bruce’s arrival on February 1, offers this by way of an answer.
“At Hull, Steve played a back-three,” said the 53-year-old, who worked with Bruce at both Hull and Aston Villa. “And it was a back-three, not five.
“We had wing-backs who played high. I am not saying we are going to do that, but I think the balance of Steve, myself and Stephen Clemence means we have different ideas on how the game should be played.
“Steve was a top-class central defender so understands how to organise a team. But equally he played at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson.
“Any player that played under what I consider to be the best attacking coach then that says everything about Steve.
“He loves for a team to play in a way that you can identify as being organised and solid, but also rotate, cross balls and score goals.”
This pretty much summed up Hull in the Championship under Bruce.
The Premier League, at least away from home, was a slightly different matter with the quality of teams meaning any side guilty of being too reckless ran the danger of being punished heavily.
But, certainly in the second tier, Bruce’s Hull were all about putting the opposition under pressure.
His switch to a three-man defence was, at first, out of necessity. Abdoulaye Faye, 34 and less than mobile when becoming one of the new Hull manager’s first signings during the summer of 2012, was a towering influence at the back, but he needed protecting.
Slotting James Chester, Alex Bruce or Paul McShane either side of the Senegal lynchpin brought balance.
It also best utilised the pace of Ahmed Elmohamady, signed on loan a few weeks into the season, in a right-sided wing-back role, while in time Robbie Brady would make the left flank his own.
Later Andrew Robertson, described recently by Jose Mourinho as “absolutely incredible”, was brought in for a bargain £2.85m to strengthen further Hull’s threat down the left flank.
Bruce was never afraid to make big calls either, even when the stakes were high, as he proved ahead of the final game of the 2012-13 season when ditching the 3-5-2 formation that had become staid in the preceding weeks and nudging Brady up front alongside Jay Simpson.
The fact Brady had never played so far forward before or that victory over champions Cardiff City would guarantee promotion did not dissuade the then Tigers chief from making such a big call.
It worked, too, as promotion was sealed later that same afternoon albeit in gut-wrenching fashion after Hull somehow contrived to miss a penalty in stoppage time and then concede an equaliser from the spot at the other end just 61 seconds later.
Strikers, which Wednesday have in abundance thanks to the scattergun recruitment of the past, were a big part of Bruce’s planning at the KCOM Stadium.
Nick Proschwitz flopped after joining in that first summer, but record fees paid out for Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long during the January window that followed promotion ensured relegation was never a worry in that first season up.
Another record fee, £10m this time, saw Abel Hernandez signed during the summer of 2014, as Long left for Southampton, to underline Bruce’s commitment to attack.
Hernandez netted three times in his first five appearances, while Mo Diame – another expensive acquisition – went even better with four goals in his first five games only for injuries to key players to strike and help relegate the Tigers.
“In time the supporters will see a very, very attractive team to watch,” pledged Agnew.
“Obviously from a football point of view you want clean sheets and you want to win 5-0 every week, but we know that is not possible.
“We will improve on all aspects of play, but certainly give the supporters a team that they enjoy coming down and watching play.”