What do you know about Hull City AFC and it’s players? The furore surrounding the proposed name change to ‘Hull Tigers’ has somewhat masked the great excitement linked with what is the dawn of another historic moment in Hull City’s thrilling story. The third season of top flight football began at Stamford Bridge last Sunday and it coincides with the return of messiah Mourinho. We will be looking at the team of an often overlooked club you may not know much about.
2012-13 Championship Season
The Tigers’ promotion to the Premier League was not as much of a ‘miraculous feat’ as BBC’s Phil McNulty describes in his preview of the new season, in which he predicts a bottom place finish for City. A top-six finish was the minimum expectation from the chairman, Assem Allam, after a £17m wage bill garnered an 8th place finish the previous season.
Enter Steve Bruce who was eventually persuaded to drop down a division. Six new signings followed, including the hugely disappointing £2.6m German Nick Proschwitz, and another £3.5m was spent in the January window. A 3-5-2 formation and eye-pleasing football led to a season spent mostly in the top three places. Promotion was sealed on the final day in a roller-coaster 2-2 draw with Cardiff.
The Allam family promised to be sensible with finances during the Tigers’ second spell at the top table. The previous regime ran up huge amounts of spiralling debt which would have sent the club into liquidation if it wasn’t for the generosity of the current owner. An interesting statement from the family this summer was that any player signing a significant contract would have to move to the Hull and East Yorkshire area.
In goal, the experienced international Allan McGregor was bought for £1.7m and Steve Harper acquired on a free transfer to replace the impressive David Stockdale who had been on loan from Fulham the previous season.
In defence, Curtis Davies was Bruce’s priority signing of the summer with a fee of around £2.25m and Maynor Figueroa also joined on a free transfer. The centre backs have attained 267 top flight appearances between them and the Honduran who can also play left back lays claim to 95 international caps.
In the engine room late acquisitions from Spurs have arrived in the form of England internationals Tom Huddlestone, for a record £5.25m, and Jake Livermore, on a season-long loan. 26-year-old Huddlestone has Champions League experience and is possibly a player with one of the best levels of ability ever to play for the club.
Ahmed Elmohamady and George Boyd have made loan deals permanent this summer. Elmohamady completes a £2m move from Sunderland after being named Player of the Year during two loan spells at City last year. Notably, in ten games the Egyptian did not appear in, the black and amber team only won once. Boyd made a telling impact after a January loan spell and his fairy-tale story of non-league to Premier League in the space of six years is what dreams are made of.
Regarding the much needed strike-force, (midfielder Robert Koren was top-scorer last year with 9 goals) Yannick Sagbo arrives from French side Evian for £1.6m. The Ivory Coast international scored 22 goals in 90 games for his previous club and is a largely unknown quantity, although he is known to be a physical player. Danny Graham arrives on a season-long loan and scored a goal in every three games in Swansea’s first season in the top flight. Charlie Austin was on the verge of a £4.5m transfer to the Tigers when knee problems showed up in medical scans and ended the deal.
Existing Key Players
Steve Bruce has stated that although several big new signings have been named, existing players will be given a chance to show how they can perform at this level. “I’m mindful of the fact players here deserve a chance. The majority of players that have got us here are still here and they will play a part.”
Sone Aluko was a low key free transfer for the East Yorkshire side last summer but had anything other than a low key impact in 22 league appearances before an Achilles injury halted his campaign. Representing England youth teams before claiming two Nigerian caps, the 24-year-old forward/attacking midfielder captivated the tiger nation with his flair, creativity and devastating attacking play. Left-footed Aluko will be playing against better opposition with better defenders which will make his enthralling ability even more impressive; he is too good for the Championship. And Bruce agrees: “I couldn’t think of anyone better in the Championship when he was at his best, no doubt about it, he’s got all the ability to play in the Premier League.”
24-year-old James Chester has played over 100 games for the club, mainly in the centre of defence, and is rated very highly by the fans, media and the coaching staff alike. Chester came through Manchester United’s youth academy and had been attracting interest from Aston Villa before signing a three year contract this summer. His outstanding one-on-one defending, positional awareness and composure on the ball makes up for his lower than average height for an English centre back (6ft). He is expected to cope well at this level and City may find it hard to hold on to him come the end of the season.
Last season’s club captain and top scorer Robert Koren secured promotion on Humberside at the third time of asking. The central midfielder who often plays as a more attacking player had the experience and the mentality to drive the younger players around him last season which is why Bruce “built the side around him.” 125 games and 26 goals in three seasons underlines the Slovenian skipper’s importance. The assumption from some of the fans and media that he is a luxury player came during the lowest points of his form and fitness. He possesses brilliant long range shooting ability, however, he turns 33 in September and is destined to play less of a role this campaign.
Republic of Ireland internationals David Meyler and Robbie Brady both made loan deals permanent in January earlier this year. Brady revelled in his left wing-back position last year, combining his stamina and attacking instincts with defensive discipline. Another product of the Manchester United youth system, he delighted the KC crowd with direct and creative build-up play and also played up front in the decisive last game of the season. After 74 City appearances clocked up, Brady should play a prominent part in a more attacking role in the new look 4-3-3 formation.
Meyler was brought down from Sunderland on loan to ‘bring a bit of presence’ to Hull’s midfield. 10 games later and around £1.5m was shelled out for his services. Tough in the tackle as a box-to-box central midfielder, Meyler had suffered two serious knee injuries during his time at the Black Cats. A favourite of Bruce, expect to see a lot of the consistent all-rounder with a desperate desire to win.
Stephen Quinn who has picked up a hamstring injury will miss the beginning of the season and time will tell how much he will play this season. Another Irish international, he won Players’ Player of the Season after a bargain transfer fee which saw him leave Sheffield United for up to £100,000. During 41 league starts, ‘Quinniesta’ showed his superb passing ability and was often the link between defence and attack.
Steve Bruce has suggested that formation may and will probably change to suit the situation the team faces. However, a 3-5-2 formation that served them so well last year has been revised to a 4-3-3 as the preferred formation in pre-season. McGregor, Davies, Figueroa, Huddlestone, and Livermore are all expected to debut against Chelsea. Graham and Sagbo are both competing for the central striker spot.
Elmohamady Chester Davies Figueroa
Meyler Huddlestone Livermore
Aluko Sagbo Brady
Subs: Jakupovic, McShane, Rosenior, Koren, Boyd, Fryatt, Graham
Hopefully you have gained an insight into the Hull City team that will be competing in the Premier League this season. The club is more than a barbaric name change, it’s more than a famous manager, but as long as people politely ignore Hull City AFC the team will be more than happy to prove people wrong. All over again.
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