Hull City's Alex Bruce: 'I'll always give the fans 100 per cent and hopefully they appreciate it'
ON FIRST impressions, Alex Bruce's decision to work under father Steve at Hull City was either brave or foolish.
Life as a manager's son walks an unenviable high-wire. Suspicion lurks on one side, resentment on the other.
The pitfalls were obvious for Bruce junior upon his arrival in July, but poll any of the 1,244 supporters that danced out of St Andrew's after City's 3-2 win over Birmingham seven days ago and the defender's heritage was coincidental.
For the best part of an hour Bruce helped form an outstanding rearguard action back at his former club, ensuring the early brilliance of Sone Aluko was not in vain. He blocked, he headed, he tackled.
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The result was a 10th win of the season for the high-flying Tigers and another victory for Bruce in his battle to belong.
"It has been great," said Bruce. "Obviously, the football is going well and everyone has been good to me, especially the supporters.
"The supporters have made me very welcome, as have the lads, so it's good all round. It is nice to come into work and be part of a good atmosphere the way it is at the minute. Everyone is buzzing,
"History tells me though, if you have a couple of bad results things can be different.
"One thing I can guarantee is I will always give my all. I may be crap one week, but I'll always try and give the fans 100 per cent and hopefully they appreciate that."
Starting 12 of the Tigers' 17 league games this term, a quiet and composed style has won plenty of admirers.
Bruce needs no favours to hold down his place and the snipers that took pot shots in the summer have been forced to cease fire.
Steve Bruce called his son's performance at St Andrew's his best yet. "If that's what the manager says then I guess I'll have to concur," responded Alex.
"I was glad to get back in the team and do well. You have them games sometimes when everything seems to land on your head as it were, but there were a few other good performances.
"In the first half it was fantastic to go three nil up away from home, especially at a team like Birmingham where it is not easy. It was great to be part of it and we gave ourselves a good platform for the rest of the game.
"We made it hard for ourselves, but we played some good stuff and showed some good defensive organisation."
What started out as a year to forget in the Leeds United wilderness, is ending as one to cherish. As well as enjoying regular football with a club chasing the Premier League rainbow, he and wife Lucy are the proud parents to five-week old Eva, their first child.
If that were not enough to define a year for change, Bruce has also taken the bold move to swap international allegiances from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland.
Despite representing the Republic at under-21s level, B level and in a senior friendly against Ecuador in 2007, the 28-year-old has chosen to pledge his future to Northern Ireland's cause.
Two call-ups for Michael O'Neill's side in the last two months were both scuppered by injury, but the centre-back is now targeting a debut in the March World Cup qualifiers against Russia and Israel.
"My dad's mum is from Bangor in Northern Ireland so those are my Irish roots," he said.
"You can tell when you speak to me I am as English as it gets really, but when I was younger the Republic of Ireland came to me first.
"As a footballer it is a short career and sometimes when you get given an opportunity you have to take it with both hands, especially if you want to do as many things as you can with that career. I was in a couple of squads but never played for the Republic in a competitive game.
"I hadn't been around the squad in recent games and Michael O'Neill saw that and realised my Irish connections, which are really with the north anyway. They approached me and I thought why not.
"The team played Portugal a few weeks ago and to go and play those sort of teams is what you want to do. It was sod's law the two injuries I picked up this year fell when the internationals were.
"I feel like I've let them down a little, but if he picks me in the next squad I'll be fit and can do as well as I can."
The reaction has not been universally popular amongst supporters across the Irish Sea but Bruce stands by his decision.
"I got a little bit of stick, but you get that every now and again anyway.
"This is an opportunity I've been given and it is a short career. I'd not want to be old and grey and regret not taking the chance to play against the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal."
First Bruce must look to shackle lesser opponents in the Championship, beginning with Burnley and Charlie Austin this afternoon.
The visit of the Clarets will see City aim for a fourth consecutive home victory and target a winning start to a week that also poses the threat of Crystal Palace at home and a trip to Nottingham Forest.
A scouting report from ex-Tiger Dean Marney has braced Bruce for a stern proposition ahead of facing Austin.
"He's scoring a lot of goals at the minute and he's a hot prospect," said Bruce.
"I know Dean Marney and he's been saying every chance he gets he scores at the minute.
"Sometimes as a striker you have a year in your career where everything you hit seems to go in the back of the net and I think he's having one of those years this year. Hopefully, he'll have a bad day.
"We have Crystal Palace coming up and we know that will be a tough game so it makes Saturday all that more important to get the two points.
"It can set us up nicely to boost the squad further when we take on Palace.
"If we can get six points out of the next two games it will be a great set up going into the Christmas period."