Bruce ready to welcome back Aluko
Hull forward Sone Aluko is ready to put nearly four months of frustration behind him after finally recovering from the Achilles injury that has wrecked his season.
Aluko was one of the Tigers' brightest performers at the start of the campaign, and scored a memorable winner at Newcastle in what remains Hull's only away win.
But he has not featured since October 19, when the injury problems that ruled him out of the second half of Hull's promotion push last term struck again.
Manager Steve Bruce has consistently bemoaned the absence of a player who knits together his midfield and strikers better than any other, but having put him through his paces in a reserve team match on Thursday his return is imminent.
Bruce is understandably wary about throwing Aluko into action too soon, particularly after Robbie Brady broke down one game into his own comeback earlier in the season, but believes he is ready to get started.
"Aluko came through 60 minutes of a reserve team game on Thursday. He will be fit to play some part against Sunderland," Bruce said.
"We've given him an extra week to 10 days, done as much as we possibly can and he's worked as physically hard as he possibly can.
"Sometimes you need a bit of luck to go with you. He's had his fair share of injuries, has Sone, but we know what a big player he can be for us. We just hope he gets a clean bill of health and stays injury free.
"We hope we haven't rushed him back too quickly, we tried to do everything possible in terms of nursing him back to where he should be.
"We think he's ready, Sone thinks he's okay, so he'll be part of the squad."
When Aluko does return to the line-up, he will find a much-changed forward line in front of him.
Bruce spent £14million on Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long in January, cutting short Danny Graham's loan spell in the process as well as shunting Yannick Sagbo down the pecking order.
And, with six points covering the bottom half of the Barclays Premier League table, Bruce believes the relegation battle could be settled by strikers.
"If you look at the bottom half of the division we're all the same, we can't go and get an Aguero, a Negredo, a Rooney or a Suarez. But we're all looking for somebody to make a difference in our own little league," the Hull manager said.
"If Long and Jelavic can get 20-25 goals a season between them then, if I do my job right, we're looking to stay in the division."
The trip to the Stadium of Light marks Bruce's first visit to the stadium since being sacked as Sunderland boss in November 2011 and, although he anticipates a rough reception, he is not concerned.
Bruce has previously suggested his history as a Newcastle fan undermined his work at the club, but he was in no mood to reopen that conversation.
"I haven't been back since I left, but as far as I'm concerned it's gone," Bruce said.
"I've been here almost a couple of years, there's been three managers since I left Sunderland, let's get on with our lives."