CHRIS Wilder admits you would be hard pressed to find a more respected manager in football than West Brom boss Steve Bruce as his Middlesbrough side prepare to face the Baggies this evening.

Boro kick off their Championship campaign by welcoming Bruce’s side to the Riverside Stadium for a 17:30 kick-off. Over 26,000 fans had bought tickets for the game by Friday evening with a total attendance expected to reach near 30,000.  

Bruce has strengthened his strong squad with the additions of John Swift, Jed Wallace, Okay Yokoslu and Cedric Kipre while Jayson Molumby made a permanent switch to the Midlands after last season’s loan spell.

The 61-year-old, who has managed over 1,000 games in his managerial career, is no stranger to promotion in the dugout having led Birmingham City to Championship promotion in the early 2000’s. He’s now in charge of West Brom until the end of this season.

“I’ve always gone on record in terms of what Steve (Bruce) has achieved as a player and as a manager as well” said Wilder. “Fantastic career as a player. I wish I had his career. Fantastic career as a manager as well.

“He knows his way around. There is noise and nonsense outside the game but there is noise inside the game and I think you will go a long way to find a more respected guy than Steve Bruce. He’s a top guy.

“He wants to win. I don’t think he’s gone to West Brom not to win or get out of the division. We talk about the parachute payments and size of club. West Brom should be at the top of the division pushing to get out of it. He came in last year in a difficult period. As I knew, it’s quite difficult to all of a sudden get yourself going.

“With a full pre-season, the players he’s brought in and the players they’ve got from getting up to the Premier League and retaining the majority, Diangana, John Swift, Callum Robinson. They’ve got a manager whose won promotion out of this division so real tough first game.”

Boro are one of the favourites to be part of the promotion picture this year alongside the Baggies this season which has created an added intrigue to this season opening game.

Wilder is not a man who shirks away from a challenge and would not expect any less either. The Boro boss is relishing the opener on home soil as he continued: “I’m delighted it’s West Brom. I would want a big game to get us going.

With up to 30,000 Teessiders expected in the stands, he added: “Fabulous atmosphere at the Riverside, a good vibe and feeling around the place. I’ve been told that it is going to be potentially one of the highest opening day crowds that the football club has had since we were in the Premier League which is testament to what we are doing and the enthusiasm around the place.

“It will be a really good game and I don’t think anybody will be disappointed in terms of the level and standard of the game.”