Bruce was sacked as Black Cats boss in November 2011, leaving the club with few supporters in the stands.
His lifelong allegiance with rivals Newcastle may not have helped, but his assertion that it scuppered his reign from the start did not go down well with the Sunderland faithful either.
He is braced for hostility when he takes the Tigers to Wearside on Saturday, but feels that could make life easier for his players.
"If it's all geared at me, fantastic. Bring it on," he said.
"The players are the most important thing for me. They've got to handle the occasion and the atmosphere.
"If all the focus is on me, the players can just go out and do their jobs. It can work like that."
Although a childhood Magpies fan, Bruce was booed when he took Hull to Newcastle earlier this season - an inevitable consequence of his Sunderland past, but also a milder version that he expects at the weekend.
"I have a sneaky suspicion it'll be a little bit more hostile than at Newcastle," he said.
"I'm looking forward to it, but only if we win."
While Sunderland fans will surely oblige Bruce by casting him as the villain of the day, he is less interested in the subject that he once was.
"A lot has been said about it and I'm bored of it myself, to be honest," he said.
"I haven't been back since I left, but as far as I'm concerned it's gone. 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.
"All I can say is, in my time there, I took over a team that just survived on the last day of the season. We finished 13th and 10th but it wasn't to be."