The Tigers are set to start their fourth campaign in the Premier League, following the most successful season in the club’s history. Last campaign Steve Bruce guided the East Yorkshire club to safety with relative ease against the odds, despite a dip in form towards the end of the season; Bruce also led the club to their first ever FA Cup final in which they were narrowly beaten by a rather unimpressive Arsenal side, but has given the club their first opportunity of European football after being entered into the Europa League.
The summer transfer window is an extremely important one for the club if they are to ensure Premier League survival yet again and build on the recent success Steve Bruce has brought to the side and city. As a club, Hull City have struggled to secure the signings of big name players in the past due to the size and reputation of the club and the perception of the city itself not being considered desirable to live in, but are things starting to change?
Following Hull City’s promotion back to the Premier League in the 2012/13 season, Bruce’s first season with the club, players with bags of Premier League and European experience were suddenly being linked with The Tigers, the arrival of Tom Huddlestone from Tottenham Hotspur for £5m was the marquee signing for the club last summer, and he stated that his reason for joining the club was that he saw the ambition that Steve Bruce had for the club, and that Hull City was a club on the rise, but I don’t for one minute think that he expected last season to be as successful as it was for the club, I don’t think anybody did.
Should Hull City qualify for the Europa League, their squad will have to be strengthened and deepened in order to handle the rigours of the Premier League and hopefully stave off relegation again, as well as be competitive in the Europa League. To Hull City fans, the thought of European football coming to the KC Stadium was laughable, but Steve Bruce has made the dream a reality, however, as exciting as it is for the fans, it could cause serious problems for the club. Premier League teams competing in the Europa League on average, drop four league places from the season before, so Steve Bruce needs to ensure his squad are well up to the task of playing on Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons or he could see his side go backwards after all the hard work put in by everyone at the club.
So far this summer, Bruce has spent heavily; the £8m signing of Jake Livermore from Tottenham Hotspur, who was on loan at the club last campaign, is an expensive one but a vital one in my opinion. Livermore was an unsung hero in the Tigers midfield last season, his work rate and energy in the middle of the park throughout the season brought the best out of his centre midfield partner Tom Huddlestone, and Bruce will be hoping for the same from the ex-Spurs pair in the upcoming season. Bruce has also added width to side, bringing in Robert Snodgrass from relegated Norwich City and Tom Ince from Blackpool; Snodgrass was a bright spark in an under-performing Canaries side last season, creating the majority of the club’s goals as well as getting a few on the board himself, the £7m transfer fee for the Scotland international may appear to be steep, but if he can retain last season’s form and carry it into a more talented Hull City side, it could be a very shrewd piece of business by Steve Bruce. Ince on the other hand is considered by many as an up and coming star, the England U21 international turned down moves to Inter Milan and Monaco in favour of a move to East Yorkshire, claiming that he had “unfinished business” in the Premier League, following a loan spell at Crystal Palace last season. The fee to be paid for the services of Ince is to be decided by a tribunal, but is expected to be in the region of £2m to £3.5m, and if the 22 year old can live up to his reputation, then Steve Bruce could have a top player on his hands. It is no secret that The Tiger’s boss is keen to add strength and depth to his defence, so far the arrivals of 20 year old centre back Harry Maguire, and 20 year old left back Andrew Robertson from Sheffield United and Dundee United respectively, for a combined £5.5m have added depth to the side, but Bruce is craving an experienced centre back to partner the club’s player of the season, Curtis Davies, in the heart of the defence. Michael Dawson, also of Spurs, brother of former Hull City hero, Andy, was Bruce’s main target but has seen a £4m deal fall through due to the England international not wanting a wage drop clause in his contract if the side are relegated. Bruce was then said to be interested in former Fulham defender, Brede Hangeland who was available on a free transfer, but has opted to sign for Premier League rivals, Crystal Palace.
Steve Bruce is keen to make sure the players he brings into his squad are the correct ones both on and off the pitch, so will not rush or be forced into panic buying. So far this transfer window he has shown a very strong preference for young, British players, who’s transfer fees may well have been increased by Manchester United signing teenage wing back, Luke Shaw, from Southampton for £30m, increasing the value of British players across the board, but the signs seem to suggest that funds are still available for Bruce to pursue an experienced centre back, and despite his calmness so far this summer, alarm bells may start ringing with only two weeks until the new Premier League campaign kicks off.
The squad Steve Bruce has assembled since his appointment in the summer of 2012 is arguably the best in the clubs 110 year history; a spine of experience with Mcgregor, Davies, Huddlestone and Jelavic, combined with the youthful energy of Ince, Robertson and Livermore will make The Tigers a tough team to beat. The signings of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long last January provided the goals that kept Hull City in the Premier League, and Steve Bruce will be hoping that their strike partnership will continue to cause teams problems in the upcoming season.