Success of Hull City attacking duo Jay Simpson and Sone Aluko 'not envisaged' by Steve Bruce
WHEN Steve Bruce drew up his perfect XI to face Brighton on the opening day of the Championship season, his thoughts leaned predictably towards the attacking union of Nick Proschwitz and Matty Fryatt.
One was City's new £2.6m summer signing with a proven track record in the German second tier. The other had ended each of his two seasons with the Tigers as the club's top scorer.
The ideal fit. Or so Bruce thought.
A season-ending Achilles injury to Fryatt and a lack of form for Proschwitz dispelled Bruce's vision in its infancy, but fortune has since handed him rich compensation.
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Sone Aluko, recruited from Rangers primarily as a winger, and Jay Simpson, the forgotten man of the KC Stadium, have been thrown together to conjure instant magic.
Both boast six goals apiece already this season and in nine of the Tigers' 15 Championship games, one or the other has found the score-sheet.
Aluko and Simpson were at it again to inspire City's 2-1 win over Wolves in midweek, and more of the same could see the Tigers climb into the automatic promotion places with a win at Cardiff this afternoon.
A strike-force as lethal has not been witnessed in these parts since the days of Fraizer Campbell and Dean Windass, and Bruce accepts the pairing came about purely by chance.
"Sometimes in management you just need a little bit of luck," he said.
"Did I envisage seeing this as the first-choice pairing? Probably not when you had Matty Fryatt as last season's top scorer and Nick Proschwitz coming in too.
"I doubt I would have predicted it but I'm only too happy to have been wrong because they're doing the business."
City's win over Wolves captured the twin threat of Aluko and Simpson perfectly. While Aluko opened the scoring with a deft free-kick from 25 yards out – his third in three games – Simpson ended his mini-drought with an exceptional finish to double the Tigers' lead.
Fortunate or otherwise, they make quite the pairing.
"I knew Aluko could play all three positions up there but when I spoke with him, he made it clear that he wanted to play off the front," explained Bruce.
"Then look at Jay, everyone had discarded him and given up on him really. He's been a huge plus point, like so many of them here who hadn't been in the picture."
For a side that mustered just 47 goals in 46 league games last season, the rich form of Aluko and Simpson has helped transform City's attacking prowess under Bruce.
Eight different players have found the net this season to contribute 22 goals, already eight more than at this stage of 2011-12.
Bruce expects more to come from his first-choice strikers, though, and sets Aluko and Simpson the challenge of emulating Stuart Elliott's form of 2004-05, where he was the last City player to pass the 20-goal mark.
"It's six goals each for them but that could have easily been higher," said Bruce.
"They've both brought something different with their link-up play and hold-up play. They enjoy playing with each other and the goal at Bristol summed that up. It was a joy to watch.
"I see them every day enjoying playing alongside each other, they bounce off one another. Strikers should always aim for 20 goals. You don't see it very often nowadays at any level, but if both of them could weigh in with 15 or 18 then I'll be a very, very happy man."