Hull City's Alex Bruce hoping to get one over his old neighbour Kasper Schmeichel
A FRIENDLY rivalry, one first founded in a Cheshire suburb almost 20 years ago, will be sparked back into life when Hull City travel to Leicester City tomorrow.
Alex Bruce and Kasper Schmeichel were next-door neighbours when their dads, Steve and Peter, began conquering English football with Manchester United in the early 90s.
Countless hours were spent together honing their skills and the practice would eventually send both youngsters on a path to emulating their famous fathers.
Bruce and Schmeichel even wound up as team-mates for a short spell at Leeds United in 2010, but Hull City's defender is keen to reassert the authority he once held over the Leicester goalkeeper.
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"Kasper was a next-door neighbour when I was growing up so I'm looking forward to trying to get one over on him," said Bruce, two years older than his one-time neighbour.
"We spent a lot of time together as kids and we were always kicking a ball around in the street outside our houses.
"He was the little runt we'd always stick in goal and belt the ball at!
"But he's made a good living out of it so he must have learned a few things.
"He's got it in the genes I suppose. You don't have a Dad like him without being a decent keeper!"
Like Schmeichel, Bruce is playing out an accomplished career coloured by his father's achievements.
Both players have grown accustomed to the weight of expectation, but Bruce invited an even greater pressure when joining his father Steve at City this summer.
The 27-year-old free agent turned down several contract offers to sign a two-year deal with the Tigers in July.
The easy option would have been to pursue a career away from his father at City, but an encouraging opening month has delivered a first installment of vindication.
"The supporters have been great," he said. "I knew there would be question marks hanging over my head when I first signed.
"If someone else signed their own son, I'd probably be saying the same thing if I was a supporter.
"But I've always had confidence in my own ability to play in the Championship and hold my own.
"When you cross the white line everything else is put out of the way and you can only be judged on your performances."
The dearth of nepotistic jibes speaks volumes of Bruce's start to the season.
After being overlooked for the season opener against Brighton, the centre-half has assumed a key role in a three-man defence alongside Abdoulaye Faye and James Chester. Mistakes from all three can be counted on one hand.
However, humility and experience dictate Bruce is not basking in the early acclaim.
"Like I said when I came here, I don't take too much notice of any criticism but if people think I've been doing okay then great," he added.
"I'm not an idiot though. I know that if I make a bad back-pass in the next game then I know I'll be getting slaughtered like anyone!
"That's how football is and I'm sure I'd deserve it if I'd made a mistake.
"You can't get carried away with the highs and you can't get too down about the lows either.
"I've just enjoyed the opportunity to play football again. It's nice to be back and feel part and parcel of a team. It's been a while."
City's fourth and most recent win this season, a 3-2 victory at Leeds United on Tuesday, was particularly satisfying.
A two-year spell at Elland Road was not offered an extension by Neil Warnock this summer and paved the way for Bruce to head down the M62.
Applause from the Leeds fans after the full-time whistle only put the icing on the cake.
"It was nice for me to go back there and get a result," Bruce said.
"First and foremost, we wanted to go there as a team and get a win but on a personal level it was nice too.
"Their fans were always great with me.
"With my connections the way they are, they could have quite easily have given me some stick but I suppose they appreciated that I'd always given my best."
Another reunion of sorts lies in store for Bruce at the King Power Stadium tomorrow after the defender spent a short loan spell with the Foxes in 2010.
Recruited by Nigel Pearson from Ipswich for the closing months of the 2009-10 campaign, he lined up alongside City defender Jack Hobbs in both legs of Leicester's Championship play-off semi-final.
An agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Cardiff proved to be the end of an era for Bruce and Pearson.
Leicester opted against making the move permanent and, within two months, Pearson was on his way to join the Tigers following their relegation from the Premier League.
Symmetry has drawn Pearson back to the King Power Stadium but will not spare him the derision of the travelling fans. Bruce, though, is full of respect for his one-time boss.
He said: "I had the experience of playing with Nigel there and I can say I really enjoyed it.
"He played me in the big games in the play-offs but unfortunately we missed out on getting to the play-off final on penalties.
"I am a little bit naive about how people perceive him around here but I can only speak as I find, and he was great with me."
While Pearson eased the mounting pressure on his side with a 2-1 win over Burnley in midweek, the former City boss will be wary of a confident visitor tomorrow.
City head to the East Midlands chasing their fourth consecutive win after their best start to a season in 19 years.
"It's important we don't get carried away with ourselves," added Bruce.
"My experience of the Championship is that the minute you start thinking you've cracked it, you'll end up with egg on your face.
"When you win games expectation levels always rise, but it's our job to ignore that and stay level headed."