Premier League Weekend Review: No need for Bruce to fear the Europa League

Steve Bruce . . . thoughts of what might have been
Steve Bruce... thoughts of what might have been

The dejection of an FA Cup Final defeat has left Hull among the favourites to get relegated next year. Ralph Ellis says that's a bet to lay while you can... 

"By this morning Hull were second favourites for relegation next seasonat 3.1511/5. The draining effect of playing and travelling across the Continent was unquestionably one of the factors involved."

Amid the rubbish strewn around the dressing room at Wembley on Saturday night, as Hull's players faced up to the bitter disappointment of losing an FA Cup Final, qualifying for Europe was not much of a consolation prize.

If only Kieran Gibbs had not cleared an Alex Bruce header off the line that could have made it 3-0. Then skipper Curtis Davies could have been pouring champagne into the shiny new trophy; Steve Bruce could have been drenched in the same bubbles as his players danced and celebrated; owner Assem Allam, pilloried for trying to change the club's name, could have been a hero.

Instead the sweat soaked kit was thrown across the floor, the socks and tie-ups in piles, and the thought of returning to play a first competitive game on July 29 in the third qualifying round of the Europa League, probably against somebody like FC Shirak of Armenia or Georgia's Sioni Boinisi, held all the glamour of a night out at McDonalds.

Even Bruce couldn't get excited by it. "We have four European games by the end of August and for a club like ours, I don't think we're ready for that," he admitted.  "Whether we have the resources, and whether we have the manpower, I am not so sure."

It was a depressing message at the end of an afternoon that had begun with so much joy as Bruce's side stormed into a two-goal lead - and one that others picked up on. By this morning Hull were second favourites for relegation next season @ 3.1511/5. The draining effect of playing and travelling across the Continent was unquestionably one of the factors involved.

Yet the idea that the Europa League trophy is some kind of poisoned chalice is a myth. And it is one that Bruce needs quickly to dispel. Why spend a year fighting to qualify for the chance to play in Europe, and then a season wishing you hadn't bothered? Instead why not embrace it and enjoy it?

That's what Bruce's old club Birmingham did when Chris Hughton was in charge, and their adventures were a key part in reaching that season's Championship play-offs. It's what Stoke did under Tony Pulis. It's what Swansea achieved last season, ultimately comfortably holding on to their Premier League status.

The Swans reached the knock-out stages and played 54 games in all - but that is only six more than Hull underwent on the way to Saturday's thrilling Wembley final, so it's not that much an extra workload. And while Bruce might have been suffering the dejection of a Cup Final defeat on Saturday night as he contemplated flights to far parts of Europe, by the time next season rolls round he has the personality to make those trips fun for his players rather than a chore.

We're also talking here about a man with a great track record for playing the transfer markets and picking up quality signings at reasonable fees. He will be scouring the lists of players let go elsewhere and will have the persuasive qualities to make them want to join him.

Hull will have some challenges to come when they return to work early. They will have to think about the best way to handle the workload. But the idea that they will get relegated belongs with the rest of the mess on the Wembley dressing room floor - in the rubbish.

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