Football - Bruce wary of boyhood club

Steve Bruce takes his Hull side to his boyhood club Newcastle on Saturday warning that early season talk of a "crisis" at St James' Park was a red herring.

PA Sport Report

Unease over the appointment of Joe Kinnear as director of football coupled with a distinct lack of transfer activity in the summer cast a return of one point from Newcastle's first two games in a poor light.

But things have picked up since then with Barclays Premier League wins over Fulham and Aston Villa, as well as success in their Capital One Cup clash against Morecambe, leaving them in confident mood.

As a born and bred Newcastle fan Bruce pays close attention to events at the club and feels the naysayers were on the wrong track at the start of the campaign.

"When you see them last week winning at Villa and look at the team they can field when (Loic) Remy is fit, when (Papiss) Cisse is back, when (Hatem) Ben Arfa is fit and (Yohan) Cabaye is still there...they are a very good side, no question about it," he said.

"Like the rest of us when they are missing two, three or four big players of course it can be a problem.

"One game is a crisis in this day and age and after the first game of the season Arsenal and Newcastle were in crisis. Since then they've gone on to pick up seven points and had back to back wins. It's going to be difficult for us."

Of all Newcastle's danger men, Cabaye is perhaps the one who will draw the eye most against Hull.

It is likely to be the Frenchman's first home start since apparently refusing to play for the club in an attempt to force through a move to Arsenal.

His manager Alan Pardew has called for a show of support from Newcastle fans and Bruce can appreciate why his opposite number has gone out of his way to re-integrate the midfielder.

"It's a big thing to keep hold of Cabaye," he said.

"The one thing you don't want is to lose your big players and Cabaye has made a big impression in the north east. He's a very good player and they've done well to hang on to him."

A trip to St James' Park always represents a bittersweet affair for Bruce, who struggles to hide his love of both the club and the area but has also been cast as something of a pantomime villain due to his spell as Sunderland manager.

"I'm a Geordie at the end of the day but they won't forget where I managed once upon a time," he added.

"It's always nice to go back even if I get a bit of stick, it's the team I followed as a boy and it's good to go home and play against them.

"When they get a head of steam up it's a passionate place to play football.

"I just hope it's better than last time I went there and got beaten 5-1 (with Sunderland in 2010). I remember that vividly and hopefully it's a better time for me."

Hull have four points from as many games, but have yet to take anything on the road.

They suffered defeats in trips to Chelsea and Manchester City and their latest challenge has been made tougher by the absence of captain Robert Koren, out for up to eight weeks with a broken foot, as well as Maynor Figueroa and Paul McShane.

Bruce will decide between central defenders Curtis Davies and James Chester when he re-allocates Koren's armband. Chester deputised for the Slovenian last term, but Davies has impressed with his vocal leadership at the back since his arrival from Birmingham.

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