Keeping goalkeeper David Stockdale a top priority for Hull City
STEVE Bruce admits he would "love" the opportunity to turn David Stockdale's loan into a permanent transfer in January, but the Hull City boss remains uncertain if Fulham will be open to offers.
Stockdale has made an excellent start to his short-term spell at the KC Stadium, conceding just one goal from open play in his three starts as goalkeeper.
The 27-year-old is currently due to return to Craven Cottage on January 2, where he still has another two-and-a-half years to run on his Fulham contract, a move that would push the Tigers back into the transfer market after the turn of the year.
Speculation has suggested Stockdale will be allowed to leave Martin Jol's side for the right price, and City would head the chase for his signature as they look to end a protracted search for a permanent number one.
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Bruce makes no attempt to mask his admiration for Stockdale ahead of handing him a fourth consecutive start at Watford today, but the City boss is still waiting to learn if a permanent deal is even possible.
"I'd love to have a conversation with Fulham to try and keep him if we possibly could," Bruce told the Mail.
"I couldn't tell you if that was possible at this stage because we've not had the conversation, but it's something we'd be keen on.
"He's got a real big presence about him as a goalkeeper. He's calm and he kicks the ball fantastically well.
"It's been a wonderful start for him here and just what he needs, the kid needs to be playing games.
"He's enjoying it and has his family roots just up the road in Leeds. Long may it continue. It's an important position for us and he's given us plenty of assurance there."
Stockdale has become the fifth different goalkeeper loaned from the Premier League in the last three seasons, joining Vito Mannone, Brad Guzan, Peter Gulacsi and Ben Amos in a long list of temporary servants.
A lack of form from Amos and uncertainty over summer signing Eldin Jakupovic forced Bruce to land Stockdale two weeks ago, but it is a habit he is desperate to kick.
"It's fair to say that we need a number one goalkeeper that's going to be our number one for at least two or three years," Bruce added.
"I'll hold my hands up and say I didn't really do enough in the summer to address the problem with a long-term answer.
"But sometimes as a Championship manager it's not quite like being in the Premier League, you have to work the loan market."
Today's counterpart, Watford boss Gianfranco Zola, can certainly empathise.
Since being handpicked by new Watford owner Giampaolo Pozzo as a summer replacement for Sean Dyche, the former Chelsea and Italy playmaker has been allowed to recruit 14 players on loan this season.
Football League rules stipulate there are no limits to the figure of foreign loan deals, and with the majority of their signings hailing from Udinese and Granada, Pozzo's Italian and Spanish clubs, only six of the 14 players used in Watford's 4-1 win over Barnsley last weekend belong at Vicarage Road.
Bruce, who currently has five loan signings of his own, offered no complaints, though, and said: "We can't grumble about it. We all have to take advantage of the loan market when we can.
"They're not breaking any rules. We've got a good few loan players and you can only play 11 at any time."
The battle of sixth versus fifth will see both sides adopt a 3-5-2 shape at Vicarage Road, a formation that has inspired a breathless march up the table from Watford.
Five wins and two draws from their last seven games has seen the Hornets plunder 20 goals and Bruce is pleased to see Zola thriving.
Bruce added: "Everything about Zola is a class act. I've met him on a couple of occasions and he's a pleasure to be around. He lit up the Premier League as a player and although he found it difficult at West Ham, he's showing a lot of promise as a young coach. It will be tough, no question."