With all the excitement of Christmas and the FA Cup over it’s time for things to get serious in the league now. However this week’s opponents Hull City will be no pushover as after making a steady start to the season they now sit in the final play-off position aiming to return to the Premier League after two seasons away.
This week I caught up with Ian Waterson co-editor of City Independent – the Hull City fanzine to get his opinions ahead of the game.
Our very own Aaron Mclean signed for you a while ago now, how has he settled into the side?
He’s a Marmite player. Some fans love him, others don’t. His work rate is phenomenal and he does create space for others to exploit. However, his detractors claim he simply doesn’t score enough goals for a striker. Personally? I think he’s been one of our better players this season – and continues to improve.
Other than in the FA Cup you haven’t won since mid-December, was this just because you were up against better teams or is your team missing something?
True, but we’ve utterly dominated all three league games, though. Middlesbrough scored a ‘worldy’ two minutes from time, Burnley got lucky with a freak piece of luck (and we always lose at both grounds anyway) while Derby cashed in with their only shot on target. Nothing to worry about in all honesty, keep playing like we do and we’ll definitely win more than we lose.
Nick Barmby is set to become your new full-time manager how do you feel about this?
Local lad done good. Hugely talented and a model professional who has played at the very highest level for club and country. Hugely popular with the fans and always likely to be involved with the club in some capacity – even though that situation has arrived a little earlier than we probably envisaged. He has – and will continue to receive – backing of the board and the fans longer than most would due to his local roots.
Have you noticed any difference to your side since Barmby took over?
“We’re not boring anymore!” The Barmby ‘brand’ is fast-paced, attack minded, passing football. The transition from defensive counter-attacking football under Nigel Pearson has been almost seamless. Barmby takes enormous credit for this. The players have been given much more licence to express themselves and the result is a very entertaining team to watch.
Have you missed anything from the team since Nigel Pearson left?
We’re missing monotone pre and post-match press conferences and Barmby coming off the bench as a super-sub to seal the points now he’s taken the job on of managing the club permanently. Although Pearson did a fantastic job, fans always felt disenfranchised from the club. Barmby, very quickly, got everyone on side and working as one to achieve success once again.
What position would you like to see your team strengthen in the January transfer market and is there anyone you would like to offload?
We need a striker because as highlighted above by Aaron McLean’s critics, he doesn’t score enough. A goalkeeping crisis has blighted the club in recent weeks and if Republic of Ireland international Paul McShane leaves to secure regular first team football ahead of the up and coming Euro 2012 finals, we’ll probably need a defender too.
You’re sitting in a good league position at the moment how do you feel about your team’s first half to the season?
Excellent. The position is fully merited too. The best thing is; Hull City have probably got the youngest squad in the Championship and the players can only get better. The secret of the success is the continued, prolonged and flourishing relationship with Man United that has been established for the past five years. Five of our current first team are youngsters schooled the Sir Alex Ferguson way. And the pedigree is evident for all to see.
Not too long ago you were in the top flight are you hoping you make a swift return back to the Premier League or are you content at being a Championship side?
The ambition should always be to play at the highest level. Barmby did it, the club owners definitely back the plan to return there, while the younger players want a taste of it for real, after largely coming from Premier League clubs. As fans, the top flight isn’t all it is painted to be speaking from experience, but the kudos and coverage is simply second to none. And it’s great for the region, so bring it on!
Peterborough are a free scoring side are you worried how you your team will fare against them?
The defence is usually one of our strong points and something you saw for yourself at London Road. One of the few teams to shut you out, I believe. Our defence is getting better as the season goes along with Jack Hobbs now growing in stature with the captain’s armband at centre back and young defensive partner James Chester seemingly on course for Barca at his current rate of progression!
Will you need to adjust your game play to prevent a wave of goals going against you?
It is very unlikely Barmby will change his passing philosophy that he is already coursing through the club at all levels. So if we’re going head to head on a passing game of attacking football, my money is on the team at home and currently sitting in the play-offs with the incentive of achieving a welcome league ‘double’.
Is there anyone in the posh squad who you will be particularly wary of?
The boy Boyd is certainly a player to watch, plus the lad Taylor in the middle looks a decent larker. If Joe Lewis turns up in red hot form between the sticks that might pose a problem too due to our occasional lapses in front of goal. However, be warned, City do have a Plan ‘B’…
Who will be your key man?
As we say round these parts when things are running the risk of going a little awry… “Keep calm and pass to Koren”. I hope you’ve done your homework!
What player has surprised you the most this season?
Hull City-wise Paul McKenna in our midfield has been increasingly influential in our upturn in form, after a relatively slow start for us. In the Championship, it’s difficult not to admire the exploits of Rikkie Lambert at Southampton. The biggest surprise though, still remains as Jimmy Bullard failing to light up the Championship with Ipswich. He’s a £5m Premier League player don’t you know? Well, a surprise to everyone except Hull City fans of course…
Finally what do you predict the score will be and where do you expect to finish this season?
I don’t care as long as Hull City win. I don’t care how it arrives either, after some of the rotten injustices we’ve seen in the last three games. It’s always about results first, with the performance second. For the season, we’ve been getting it right more often than wrong, so the play-offs are not an unreasonable or unrealistic expectation, as the team is generally getting better and better over the course of the season. Hell, we could even make the autos with a fair wind!
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