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Bruce is still hurting over Sunderland axe, says Harper
AS Steve Bruce prepares to welcome former club Sunderland to the KC Stadium on Saturday, Hull City goalkeeper Steve Harper believes the former Black Cats manager is still hurting over the way his reign on Wearside ended.
Bruce spent just over two years in charge at the Stadium of Light, in which he led the Black Cats to a tenth-place finish in the Premier League, but a bad run of form cost the former Manchester United defender his job in November 2011.
Saturday will be the first time Bruce has met his former club since being sacked by chairman Ellis Short and Harper, who joined the Tigers following his departure from Newcastle United in the summer, admits his boss has been relishing the opportunity to face his old club.
Following his dismissal on Wearside, Bruce felt the fact he was a boyhood supporter of Sunderland’s arch-rivals Newcastle contributed to his sacking.
Harper, who played in last Sunday’s narrow defeat to Tottenham, is likely to keep his place in goal against Sunderland after first-choice keeper Allan McGregor was ruled out for up to six weeks, and the 38-year-old admits Bruce is still hurting over the way things ended on Wearside.
“I would think he still hurts from what happened at Sunderland,” Harper said. “Especially considering the job he did as well. He was 13th, 10th and then they had a dozen games or so when they played the top six and he lost his star centre forward as well.
“I think it he hadn’t been a Newcastle supporter as a youngster he probably wouldn’t have lost his job as quickly as he did. That was held against him. His record there is a good when you look at what’s happened since, it stands it up even more. I’m sure this will be a fixture he will have his eyes on.”
Harper could have played under Bruce a lot earlier in his career had the former defender accepted an approach from Newcastle to become their manager in 2004, but the Corbridge-born boss was keen to stay loyal to his club at the time, Birmingham City, with whom he has just signed a new contract.
However, Harper believes the chance to follow in Sir Bobby Robson’s footsteps was an opportunity missed for Bruce, but understands why he decided not to take up the offer.
Harper said: “There are a lot of similarities in the way Steve does things to the way Sir Bobby did, and I think, we haven’t discussed it, but I’m sure he regrets not taking that opportunity to do that.
“You could probably understand his reservations at the time following on from such an iconic and legendary football man, but I think as time has gone on he probably realises that, especially supporting the club as a boy, what a fantastic opportunity it was, but who knows in the future.”
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