Hull boss Steve Bruce insists his side have every chance of pulling off one of the most unlikely of Barclays Premier League survival missions against Manchester United at the KC Stadium on Sunday.
The Tigers go into the game knowing only a win will give them any chance of retaining their top-flight status – while a win for Newcastle over West Ham at St James’ Park would seal their fate irrespective of their own performance.
Neither Bruce’s own managerial record against the club he graced with such aplomb – 21 winless encounters and counting – not the fact Hammers boss Sam Allardyce gave his players extra time off this week appear to work in his side’s favour.
But Bruce is convinced recent performances in defeats to Tottenham and Arsenal, plus a healthy record against most of the top sides this season, could see them end the hoodoo and stay up in style.
Bruce said: “It’s going to go down to the wire like I always said it would but we have still got a chance and we’ve got to believe we’ve got that chance.
“First we’ve got to beat Manchester United, which is never easy, but there have been some strange results recently so let’s hope we can get a result and a favour elsewhere.
“What Sam does with his team is his business but knowing Sam the way I do he will want to win the game just like every week – the honesty and integrity of this league is there for anyone to see.”
Bruce is likely to stick with Nikica Jelavic in his starting line-up after the Croatian striker showed few ill effects following his recent return from extensive knee surgery.
And he knows the importance of getting off to a good start against Louis Van Gaal’s men and piling the pressure on his boyhood heroes to get a result at St James’s Park.
“They (Newcastle) have still got a huge advantage because the onus is on us to win the game,” added Bruce. “But if we can put pressure on and get in front then of course the pressure all sort of blows back to the north-east.
“But we’ve still got a big job to do and that’s turn over Manchester United which is never easy.
“I think the one thing you can’t level at the players is that they’re not up for the fight – of course they are.
“The thing is at this stage you need more than fight – you need to perform and perform well. There’s fight in us but we’ve got to perform as well.
“If we can play to the maximum and it’s not quite good enough I think everyone will accept that. But I hope we can play well and get the bounce of the ball and it will be our day.”
Meanwhile Bruce declined the opportunity to shed any light on the future of midfielder Jake Livermore who remains suspended by the club following a positive drugs test.
Bruce added: “I think it would be wrong to talk about Jake today – I think the club will put a statement out in due course.
“All our attention this week is on this game and we’re not going to get distracted by that. I know there’s B samples and all the rest of it and when the club is good and ready we will give out the information.”