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Bruce managing expectations at Hull

Hull City Aug 13, 2014
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City's Euro adventure alive...just

Hull City Aug 8, 2014
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Steve Bruce

Latest Club: Hull City
Previous Squads:

Wigan Athletic, Birmingham City

2014/2015 Barclays Premier League

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Profile

Previous Clubs: Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, Wigan Athletic, Crystal Palace, Birmingham, Sunderland

Honours: Championship playoff winner: 2001-02

Eighteen months after being sacked by Sunderland, Steve Bruce secured his return to top-flight management by guiding Hull City to automatic promotion from the Championship.

A second-placed finish was achieved with a draw against champions Cardiff on a dramatic final day of the season, as the Tigers earned promotion and a spot at the Premier League table for the first time since 2010.

It was particularly satisfying for Bruce, who had seen his managerial stock plummet at Sunderland after big spending -- including a club-record outlay on Darren Bent -- brought little in terms of tangible results. He led the Wearsiders to 13th place and 10th place in the Premier League but won just two of his first 13 games of the 2011-12, leading to the axe falling on him in November, 2011.

The Sunderland job was the biggest of Bruce's managerial career, which began with a player-manager stint at Sheffield United in 1998. As a player, Bruce was one of the best defenders of his generation, helping Norwich win the League Cup in 1985 before going on to claim eight major trophies in nine years with Manchester United -- captaining the team for four years. He left Old Trafford in 1996 and saw out his playing days with Birmingham and Sheffield United.

His time as a boss at Bramall Lane was an unhappy one and he resigned at the end of the season after just missing out on a play-off place. More woe was to follow as he was given a chance at Huddersfield Town soon after, but they started the 2000-01 season in disastrous form and he was sacked in October. It would be six months before Bruce returned to management.

He was appointed as manager of Wigan Athletic on a short-term contract until the end of the season and, although he only had a limited period to make an impression, he ensured the Latics made the play-offs. However, an offer from Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan proved too tempting and Bruce took charge at Selhurst Park in May.

However, when Birmingham City sacked Trevor Francis in October 2001, Bruce would return to St Andrew's as manager. After a bitter court-room battle with Jordan, he was able to begin his Blues career and sealed promotion to the Premier League through the play-offs in his first season. Having established the club in the top flight in his first two seasons, Bruce was considered to be one of the best young managers in the game - and a possible successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. But after another impressive year, results took a turn for the worse and the club were relegated at the end of the 2005-06 season.

The board stuck by their manager and, after one season in the Championship, Birmingham secured promotion back to the Premier League the following year - vindicating the board's decision. However, the chance to manage Wigan again proved enticing and after a compensation package of around £3 million was agreed, Bruce returned to the club he had managed for eight games back in 2001. He kept the Latics up but after becoming tired of losing his best platers, he moved on to Sunderland.

Bruce's time with Hull has gone a long way toward restoring his managerial reputation but the challenge of keeping them in the Premier League was arguably the biggest of his career.

Bruce successfully managed to do just that in a season that so nearly brought silverware to the KC Stadium in the shape of the FA Cup. The Tigers had reached the final and began to dream of lifting the famous trophy when they went 2-0 up inside the opening 10 minutes against overwhelming favourites Arsenal, only for the Gunners to level the tie before stealing a winner in extra time.

Following their domestic cup exploits, Bruce is now set to lead Hull into European football for the first time in their 110=year history as the Tigers enter the 2014-15 Europa League at the third qualifying round stage.

Strengths: Commands respect because of his success as a player with Manchester United, while he also has a great eye for picking up talent from unusual places having brought in players from countries as diverse as Honduras and Egypt with excellent results.

Weaknesses: His tactical nous has been questioned in the past and he once admitted he was "not really into tactics", when asked if he would consider experimenting with a Christmas tree formation at Sunderland.

Career high: Taking Hull City into the Premier League in his first season at the club, the third time he has achieved promotion as a manger, and reaching the FA Cup Final with the Tigers the following year.

Career low: Having struggled to win over the Sunderland fans because of his Newcastle roots, a humiliating 5-1 Tyne-Wear derby defeat to the Magpies in 2010 was the nadir of his reign at the Stadium of Light.

Tactics: Before Hull he had always favoured a 4-4-2, but a 3-5-2 formation was successfully implemented in the Tigers' promotion season.

Quotes: "His managerial qualities are clear and his discipline is excellent as you would expect from his Manchester United experience. He is first class as a person.... In Steve Bruce we are lucky to have a very good manager. We couldn't have dreamt of a better man." Hull City owner Assem Allam, 2013.

Trivia: Bruce has published three novels, "Sweeper!", "Defender!" and "Striker!", featuring the exploits of fictional footballer manager Steve Barnes.

Words: Dale Johnson and Mark Lomas