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Bruce and Hull continue to grow

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Hull City Sep 18, 2014
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Sep 1, 2014

Aston Villa defeat a byproduct of European failings?

Already, it seems that Hull City's early exit from the Europa League is going to cast a long shadow.

Message boards are convulsed with cross arguments, quarreling over whether Europe or the Premier League should take precedence. Radio phone-ins are used to bicker over the rightness or wrongness of Steve Bruce fielding a weakened side in Belgium. Its impact, good or bad, is loudly and heatedly debated wherever you look in Hull.

With that unhappy backdrop, and with the dismay of that premature departure just three days old, were City ever likely to get anything from Aston Villa?

What was probably not expected was that City's Euro-hangover would be so acute. The first half at Villa Park was quite astoundingly awful, so much so that Bruce has felt obliged to offer an apology ("what about an apology for the Euro-team selection?" was the instant reply from the club's unforgiving fans on the Internet).

The away goals calamity against KSC Lokeren looked as though it'd robbed a City side whose recent form included an away win on the opening day and Cup final heroics of every drop of confidence. A sharper side than Villa could have been in a position to declare at half-time -- perhaps they just couldn't quite believe the torpor of their opponents. As it was, 2-0 flattered the Tigers.

To their partial credit, Bruce's presumably forthright half-time utterances did wring something of a performance from his side in the second half. That Aston Villa nearly threw away two points ought to alarm their supporters as much as it'd have astonished City's, though in the end the damage was done during the first half.

Hull will likely be happy with the upcoming international break after struggles in Europe and in the Premier League.

There were some substandard individual performances too. Tom Huddlestone for England was a regular cry among Hull City fans last season, but he could scarcely have looked further from being an international footballer at Villa Park -- indeed, the player himself took to social media to describe his display as "hopeless", with a juicy cuss-word for good measure.

- Hull City complete signing of Abel Hernandez

It may be a good thing that we adjourn for a fortnight. Despite having actually made a European debut, and with a not-unhealthy four points gleaned from the opening trio of League fixtures, and with the club continuing to spend eye-watering sums of money on new players, there remains a section of fans who are resolutely glum.

It gives Bruce two weeks to raise the morale of his squad, who certainly looked dispirited at the weekend. It also gives him time to ponder with the club's owners whether Cup competitions are something that are ever going to be taken seriously, or whether dutiful platitudes will precede a slew of reserve team players contesting this month's League Cup tie at West Brom.

Most of all, it gives everyone time for hard lessons to sink in. Bruce erred badly in Europe; he could do much worse than select his first XI in the League Cup and make a real fist of getting the club back there. His players also erred in Europe, and then compounded matters with a rotten offering at Aston Villa. But on the terraces, some perspective too. Those who are almost obsessively mourning Europe will, somehow, need to move on. Those who gaudily smiled at its passing may need to understand the depth of feeling and appreciate there's more to life than the Premier League.

Even without football, and with the excesses of Transfer Deadline Day, it could be an interesting couple of weeks in Hull.

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