As Norwich City travel to the KC Stadium to face Hull City, there will be one man in particular who will be keener than most to prove the doubters wrong.
That man will be sat in the home dug out. Steve Bruce takes charge of a home match at Hull City for the first time on Tuesday against his former club, with his managerial reputation in desperate need of rebuilding.
There is no getting away from it, Bruce did a poor, poor job at Sunderland. With vast money to spend, his teams produced dour, unimaginative football that owed more to a hit and hope, ale house team than a Premier League side and when he got the boot in early December, the only surprise is that he lasted so long.
The immediate upturn in results enjoyed by his successor at the Stadium of Light, Martin O’Neill, showed up how badly Bruce had done, and in a world of modern technology (Bruce famously claimed he didn’t even know how to send an email) and sophisticated tactics and training methods, by the time he was put out of his misery he looked like a football relic, someone who belonged to a bygone era.
Bruce has made a series of signings so far, including his own son Alex (I wonder how he got a contract?) but he hasn’t yet addressed the lack of goals that did for Hull under Nick Barmby last season.
His bleats that the crowd got on his back because he was a Geordie didn’t do him any favours either, and the only way you can imagine him getting another crack at Premier League management is to get a team promoted. Hull City, who were in the Premier League just two season ago, have given him that chance, and it is one of the Championship’s most interesting moves of the summer.
Up against Norwich City on Tuesday night, with whom he won the League Cup in 1985, the former Birmingham City boss will be hoping to make an immediate impression on his new fans. Hull are 21/10 to get Bruce that morale-boosting win on his debut, with the draw at 11/5 and Norwich the 11/10 favourites.
Despite the focus being on Bruce, I fancy Norwich strongly for this one.
Of course, Chris Hughton is himself new to the Canaries job and in the typically understated way we have come to expect from the former Newcastle manager, he is quietly getting on with the job of making sure Norwich are prepared for that often troubling second season in the Premier League.
Since losing his first outing as manager, 3-2 to Hertha Berlin, Hughton has overseen a run of four pre-season games unbeaten, which includes wins over Celtic and Peterborough as well as draws with Ajax and MK Dons.
Norwich have only let in one goal in those four games as Hughton beds in his system and new players, such as ex-Hull defender Michael Turner, and I think they will have too much for the notoriously shot-shy Tigers.
Bruce has made a series of signings so far, including his own son Alex (I wonder how he got a contract?) but he hasn’t yet addressed the lack of goals that did for Hull under Nick Barmby last season. The Tigers scored just 47 goals in 46 league games last term – only four teams scored fewer – and with Norwich looking mean at the back, I like the 11/10 that Hughton gets one over Bruce in the battle of the ex-Birmingham managers.
Recommended bet: Norwich to beat Hull @ 11/10
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