Alex Bruce: Depth of Hull City squad will sustain promotion bid through tough winter
ALEX Bruce believes the strength in depth of Hull City's squad will ensure their promotion assault is not found wanting during a hectic run into 2013.
The Tigers travel to play-off rivals Watford this weekend to begin a demanding sequence of six league games in 25 days as the Championship turns the halfway mark of the season.
As well as facing home games with Huddersfield, Leicester and Leeds, City will also have to navigate tricky away games at Derby and Blackpool following Saturday's clash of sixth versus fifth at Vicarage Road.
City's frailties were exposed during similarly hectic spells of last season, as one win from nine games inside the infamous "Manic March" dismantled their promotion hopes.
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However, with key squad members Jack Hobbs and Tom Cairney now back in contention after lengthy lay-offs, Bruce is confident the Tigers' progress can be maintained throughout December.
"The squad is the big thing, the teams who do well are always the ones with strength in depth," said Bruce, who currently holds a place in City's three-man defence.
"We'll need everyone with the Christmas period coming up.
"There is competition for places here, and if you are going to be successful at any club you need a big squad.
"I've no doubt the squad will be used because my experience at this level tells me that.
"Everyone will play a part during the season and we all have to stay positive, even the lads who are not playing, they've been great even though it can be frustrating."
After guiding City back up to fifth with a 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest, manager Steve Bruce has competition for places in every department of his promotion-chasing squad.
Other than Matty Fryatt and Joe Dudgeon, who will not play again this season because of injury, City could have a fully fit squad for this weekend providing Sone Aluko can recover from the minor Achilles injury that ruled him out of the Forest win.
Such are the options at Bruce's disposal, naming a substitute's bench will leave several first-team players disappointed. Andy Dawson, City's long-serving club captain, is one star who has struggled to even make a match-day squad of late.
Alex Bruce accepts the onus is on players to retain their positions, but admitted rotation may be enforced.
"If you look at Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City, they pick different starting XI's each week to suit the opposition they are playing," he added.
"They can do that because their squad is so strong and that's a good position to be in as you keep your squad fresh.
"It's frustrating sometimes as you want to play every game, but realistically it is impossible to do that.
"That's the headache for the manager, deciding what players to pick one week to the next.
"When the team is winning it is difficult to get back in the team, that's the way football is. It's a healthy problem to have."
JACK Hobbs and Tom Cairney could stake a claim for a first-team return as City's reserves visit Gateshead tonight (7pm).