By Tony Leighton
Hull City for promotion?
The Tigers weren't among the bookies' pre-season favourites to climb out of the npower Championship, but they have hit the ground running under new manager Steve Bruce and look set to make a real challenge to regain the Premier League place they lost two seasons ago.
Bruce is back in the managerial chair 10 months after being dismissed by Premier League Sunderland and has returned to a division where he enjoyed considerable success with Birmingham City, one of his six previous clubs, with two promotions.
Now he is aiming to repeat the feat at Hull, who may not have been favoured by the bookies but who have been showing their promotion credentials - imperiously so in last Saturday's 3-1 win against big pre-season favourites Bolton Wanderers.
Bruce, totally unconcerned about perceptions of his team's promotion chances, told football-league.co.uk: "Anything is possible in this tough, tough division. That was shown last season - no disrespect to Reading and Southampton, but not many people would have tipped them to be the Championship's top two.
"It's been a long time [five years] since I was in the division, but I know how competitive it is and what a marathon it is, so I know the challenge I'm taking on. I'm looking to improve on what the club did last year and if we can do that we're going to be there or thereabouts in terms of the Play-Offs - and that's the aim."
If the Tigers do indeed improve on last season, which they finished two places and four points below the top six, they will, without question, be there or thereabouts.
To achieve his aim, Bruce has effected a substantial turnaround in the Tigers' playing squad, the big changes being illustrated on Saturday when six of his signings - including two debutants - were in the team that beat Bolton so conclusively.
As he enjoys the international break with his team sitting fifth in the table, the 51-year-old manager said: "I'm happy with the squad we've got and although we might have had a couple more points on the board, I'm delighted with the start we've made.
"We've got to build on what we've done so far, but if we can stay clear of injuries and get a bit of luck along the way then we'll have a chance. The last two times I was in the Championship I managed to get out - so let's hope it's third time lucky."
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