x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Steve Bruce and Hull City take a page, or player or two, from the best

Hull City's route to the Premier League passed through Old Trafford and Manchester United, writes Andy Mitten.

James Chester is one of a few former Manchester United players who have found a home with Hull City.
James Chester is one of a few former Manchester United players who have found a home with Hull City.

Steve Bruce, the Hull City manager, recently described England's second tier, the Championship, as a "crazy league".

If his opinion needed reinforcement, it came Saturday afternoon, when his side lurched between automatic promotion to the Premier League and a place in the Championship's four team play-off.

Hull needed a better result than Watford, whose game was delayed 12 minutes because of injuries to their two goalkeepers. Hull were leading 2-1 against league champions Cardiff City when they were awarded an injury-time penalty.

It was saved, Cardiff attacked and won a penalty of their own, which they converted.

Hull's players crowded around a television to watch Watford pushing for a winner against Leeds United. Instead, Leeds counter-attacked and hit a winner.

Hull's players celebrated and 15,000 supporters invaded the pitch in delight - as well they might as the prospect of England's biggest teams visiting the North Sea port.

The prestige of playing in the Premier League is not lost on Hull, England's biggest city never to host top-flight football until they were promoted for a two-year stint in 2008.

Relegation nearly bankrupted the club, but they have vowed to learn from their mistakes.

With the new television deal commencing next season, the team which finishes 20th at the end of the 2013/14 season will receive £60 million (Dh342m), the same amount that Manchester City banked for winning the league a year ago.

They will also receive parachute payments of £59m over four years if they go down. Promotion is worth £100m.

Hull were long outsiders to be promoted under new manager Bruce, a former Manchester United defender in charge of his eighth club.

His team is not packed with expensive signings but has featured six former United youngsters who were not good enough to make the grade at Old Trafford.

Centre-half/midfielder Corry Evans, 22, the younger brother of Jonny and also a Northern Ireland international, is a mainstay.

Defender James Chester cost Hull £300,000 and has played more games than any other player this season.

"We've been brought up to play football the right way," Chester said. "We've also been raised with the right attitude. If you don't make it at United, then you hope that a team takes a chance on you. Hull did that and they've benefited."

Leaving United was not easy.

"It was a tough decision, but I've come to the right place," Chester said.

"Other United lads are here and that helped me settle really quickly. We're a similar age, we grew up with each other and get on well. It's strange that we all ended up at the same club, but there are no regrets."

Of selected former United players, Chester says: "Robby Brady has been a revelation as a left-wing back in our 3-5-2 formation.

"He makes assists and scores goals. Corry will sit in front of the back three, he gets about and challenges and he's comfortable on the ball."

Former United player Joe Dudgeon started the season well but has been injured, and Cameron Stewart had a cruciate injury and is on loan at Blackburn Rovers.

Paul McShane was at United, and United's No 3 goalkeeper, Ben Amos, was at Hull on loan.

Chester, 24, also praises Bruce.

"We've improved from last year because of the gaffer," he said. "We've been penned back in matches and still managed to win because we haven't panicked.

"Bruce came in and changed formation to 3-5-2, which allows us to get more men forward. It has worked well for us. He's instilled confidence in us.

"He leaves a lot of the tactics to his coaches, but he's a good man-manager."

Bruce has helped Chester personally.

"He played in my position and he's a similar height," explains the defender.

"He's given me good advice about how to win headers despite being smaller than the forwards I'm marking. He'll tell me to lean into players and use my body."

The United education helps, too.

"At United, you have to go to school. Mess about and you get told off," he said. "You see [Ryan] Giggs and [Paul] Scholes and if you step out of line, they tell you. You have to listen to them because they know what makes a top footballer."

Chester said: "I want to play against the players I trained with at United" and also believes Hull has the infrastructure to stay up.

"The stadium and training ground are smart," he said. "We're young and hungry and I don't think there's a huge difference between the top teams in the championship and the bottom teams in the Premier League."

And like his Hull colleagues, he has earned the chance to put his theory to the test after promotion from the crazy league.




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