Saturday, 7 April 2018

The big verdict on the Hull City squad of 2018



Here’s my review of the current Hull City squad and my expectations and predictions for the future.

Image result for hull city meyler dawson
Goalkeepers

Allan McGregor (Contracted until 2018)

Undisputed number one this season. McGregor’s only fault is his lack of stature. Sadly being one of the high-earners, it looks a given that he’ll go in the summer. I’d try to keep him though. He’s a bold character and a long-serving squad member. Verdict: KEEP

David Marshall (2019)

He’s been an excellent goalkeeper but has never settled here and never will. There are too many bad memories in such a short space of time and too many people who groan the second he steps onto the pitch. He desperately needs to move on. Verdict: SELL

Recruitment

I’d give Will Mannion and Callum Burton a bigger role as back-up to McGregor. More likely though is that the club keep Marshall and bring in an experienced back-up.

Defenders

Ola Aina (loan)

He’s improved throughout the season particularly since Adkins moved him back to the right and his versatility has helped the team at times. He’s still a very poor defender compared to his predecessors in the position like Odubajo, Rosenior and even Elmohamady and his crossing leaves a lot to be desired. Another loan seems unlikely but I think we can do better in the short term. He should have a good career once he matures. Verdict: END LOAN

Fikayo Tomori (loan)

Probably the most promising of the Chelsea loanees given his age and pedigree already. He’s not ready for a battle at the bottom of the Championship though. I would definitely take him back next season but the relationship with Chelsea ended when Slutsky went. Verdict: PROBABLY OUT OF OUR HANDS

Brian Lenihan (2018)

Sadly hasn’t been involved this season and, in truth, hasn’t looked the prospect he did a couple of seasons ago. There are rumours explaining his absence but whether true or not, it’s probably the end of the line and if so - a waste of potential. Verdict: RELEASE

Moses Odubajo (2018)

By far the best full-back in our squad before his cruel injury. I hope he gets an opportunity to show what he can do before the end of the season. Regardless, the club need to make a decision with their hearts not their head. Give him at least a year to get back to his level. They’ll kick themselves if he does so somewhere else. He’s a ten million pound player at his best. Verdict: KEEP

Max Clark (2018)

A stubborn, hard-working left back. Max lacks a yard of pace but makes up for it in determination and reading of the game. This has been his first season at left-back since being converted to midfield in the U21s five years ago. He’s local, versatile and improving. Pay him what he’s worth. Verdict: KEEP

Stephen Kingsley (2020 plus)

He’s had a disappointing season but he’d be crazy to write him off. He came with good pedigree. He was (stupidly) signed late into the transfer window and had to do all his moving and settling after the season started and then picked up an injury that dragged on and on and on. He’s hopefully in for a change of luck. Verdict: KEEP

Michael Dawson (2018)

The skipper is going. That seems obvious. The club haven’t made him feel valued by letting his contract run down and attempting to replace him at the end of January. In some ways, I don’t blame them because he’s not the player he was and a two-year deal on big money isn’t smart business. Like some who’ve come before him though, the likes of Windass, Ashbee, Barmby and Meyler, it’s a pity the club haven’t acted to combine a playing and coaching role to take advantage of an intelligent, passionate and committed footballer. Verdict: NOTTINGHAM BOUND

Michael Hector (loan)

Rarely has a player made a more promising start to a career at City and gone downhill so fast. Not since the days of loan signings from Bury scoring off their arse on debut and then reverting to type anyway. I’d have happily signed him permanently, Anthony Gardner style, before August was over but fortunately I’m not in charge. He’s clumsy, over-confident and nowhere near good enough a defender for his age and physical attributes. Verdict: GOODBYE

Ondrej Mazuch (2019)

At his best an accomplished defender who relishes a battle and does the simple things well. Sadly, he’s made of glass. He’s injured every other week. If he can be wrapped in cotton wool, he’s possibly the best defender in the squad. Verdict: KEEP

Angus MacDonald (2020 plus)

Came from Barnsley with accusations of being a bit of a “Billy Big Boots” and it may not be coincidental that he’s the only player super-chipper Nigel Adkins has tried to take down a peg or two. That shambolic showing against Millwall though (when he was far from the only one) he’s looked good. He’s calm on the ball, strong in the tackle and reacts well to danger. Definitely has the potential to be amongst the best centre halves at this level. Verdict: KEEP

Recruitment

Another centre-half is needed to challenge MacDonald and Mazuch. Probably two given the Czech’s injury record. We definitely need a right-back regardless of what happens to Odubajo and a left-back if Clark moves on.

Midfielders

Seb Larsson (2018 plus)

He’s surpassed all expectations since he arrived after his release from Sunderland. He’s not as sprightly as he once was but he works incredibly hard in midfield, passes well and drives on those around him. He’s probably played more games without a break than you’d want from someone of his age but his experience has been invaluab le and when confident, his quality around the box has shone through. Verdict: ONE MORE YEAR

David Meyler (2018)

I’ve always made my view on Meyler well known. He’s massively under-appreciated. He’s not technically sound but has a massive heart, great attitude and will do any job asked of him. I can just about accept the club letting him go as a business decision but the way its gone about it has been as moronic as those in the stands who’ve given him stick down the years. Verdict: KEEP

Markus Henriksen (2019)

A revelation of late. Adkins has shown faith in him (like Slutsky) and given him the confidence to go out and show what he’s about. We saw flashes of ability prior but he’s also shown steel and maturity in midfield of late that gives us great hope for next season. In saying that, you just know that having taken 18 months to find a player in there – Ehab will now flog him. Verdict: KEEP

Evandro (2019)

An enigma. A talented player who has an un-Brazilian-like willingness to get stuck in but is constantly injured and doesn’t appear to have a favoured position. I don’t think another year of trying to accommodate is any good to us but equally, I don’t see anyone buying him. Verdict: FOR SALE

Jackson Irvine (2020 plus)

By far the best signing of the past year. Took a while to settle but his infectious work-rate, ability to challenge in the air and eye for goal have helped us marginally improve under Adkins. He can have a big season in a system that accommodates him. Verdict: KEEP

Kevin Stewart (2020)

Hasn’t worked out at all for him since he moved from Liverpool but he’s clearly a capable player. He has a lot of the same deficiencies as Aina – he plays like its academy football with time to turn on the ball and stroll around. He’s worth sticking with but he needs a rocket up his arse. Verdict: KEEP, FOR NOW

Jon Toral (2020)

He’s shown glimpses of his ability on the ball and his creativity but hasn’t made a position his own amid competition from the vibrant Irvine and the quality of Evandro the odd week he’s fit. He needs to really take games by the scruff of the neck otherwise he’ll be left with cameos on the wing again – which do not suit him at all. Verdict: KEEP

James Weir (2019)

He came in with a reputation of being a stand-out in the Manchester United U23 side but has rarely shone in ours. His attitude is questionable because he’s far more committed in his first team cameos. I’ve seen nothing yet to make it worth involving him in the first team. Verdict: MOVE ON

Recruitment

A battling, mobile midfielder who can run a game is badly needed. Otherwise we have a lot of options and quality in this area. That may not be the case if, as expected, Meyler is released, Larsson moves on and vultures circle around Henriksen. Daniel Batty needs to be given his head as a priority too. Certianly ahead of Weir and possibly Stewart if he doesn’t improve.

Forwards

Kamil Grosicki (2020)

The most divisive member of the squad. Has undoubtable ability and could bring pace and skill to wide areas. His attitude is disgraceful though. He hasn’t wanted to play for us since we were relegated and having seen most of his mates be sold or returned, I don’t entirely blame him. But his lack of appetite for earning his money since he didn’t move in August has been unforgivable. It’s damning that he’s still been our only threat at times even with his unwillingness to try a lick. Hopefully his World Cup impresses a Chinese club who throw money at us. Verdict: HAS TO GO

Harry Wilson (loan)

What a player. I’d ring Liverpool every day asking to keep him next season. They won’t agree because Klopp always likes to look over his squad in the summer – to his credit – but it’d be worth reiterating our interest hourly. Verdict: BEG

Jarrod Bowen (2020 plus)

He’s been a victim of the Adkins regime having had a wonderful first half of the season. He looks weighed down by the need to defend, defend, defend when we don’t have the ball. That’s probably not a bad thing if he’s to progress but we need to find a balance that enables him to get into positions around the box where he’s proven himself to be very dangerous with his movement off the ball, close control and smart finishing. Verdict: NO BRAINER

Abel Hernandez (2018)

Sadly, he’s off. I have it on good authority that if he hadn’t been injured, he was going in August. Such a shame its come to this but we were lucky he stayed last time and the cuts in budget, lack of ambition and shrinking squad aren’t going to appeal to him regardless. Verdict: HE’S GONE

Adama Diomande (2018)

Never really worked as a striker but no-one can ever criticise his commitment and his work-rate. It’s time to move him on though. Verdict: RELEASE

Fraizer Campbell (2019 plus)

It’s not really been the same, has it? He didn’t look fit when he arrived in the summer and through niggly injuries and reduced game time, hasn’t ever got close to 100%. He’s still a real grafter and has shown his ability in flashes but needs a big pre-season. Verdict: KEEP

Will Keane (2019)

Has never really settled. He was out of his depth last season, thrown into a situation he should never have been in and then has had to recover from a bad injury. If we can’t improve on him, we have to keep him because he’s the only striker we’ve got who isn’t an indenti-kit of the others. Verdict: REPLACE

Nouha Dicko (2020 plus)

Another solid hard worker who’ll take the knocks up front and do the hard running into channels. But he hasn’t been enough of a goal threat. At times, the team hasn’t been set up for him to succeed but he’s also missed golden opportunities. Has to be more ruthless. Verdict: KEEP. PROBABLY

Recruitment

We’re crying out for a striker who can play on his own, get hold of the ball and help our wingers and midfielders get around the box. They’re not common or cheap and we probably aren’t going to be trying to buy one. The difference between a guy like Lee Gregory recently and our forwards was stark. Let’s home someone has been watching players far and wide. Otherwise its going to be necessary to get Campbell in better shape than he has been so far and keep him fit. Tyler Hamilton from the U23s is a wide player who is worth a cameo here and there, particularly if Wilson isn’t replaced.

My squad for 2018/19:

McGregor, Mannion, Burton.

Odubajo, New right-back, Kingsley, Clark, Mazuch, MacDonald, New centre-half/ves.

New midfielder, Larsson, Meyler, Henriksen, Toral, Irvine, Stewart/Batty.

New Striker, Campbell, Dicko, Wilson, Bowen, New winger/Hamilton.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Hull City 2 Forest 1: Much changed Tigers give Adkins selection dilemma



Would Hull City be “up for the Cup”? With an apathetic fanbase and a squad lacking in ability and desire in recent weeks, it looked doubtful. The opposition being a Nottingham Forest side who turned over Arsenal in the last round and Wolves on their own patch last week backed by 4,000-odd fans in the North Stand added further doubt.

Nigel Adkins said yesterday that he fancied a Cup run. And then made 8 changes from his last selection. That could have gone either way but he was rewarded by a committed performance from players who looked eager to impress in a well-balanced line-up.

Marshall
Aina – Hector - Mazuch – Clark
Stewart – Henriksen
Bowen – Irvine – Diomande
Dicko

Mazuch was the biggest difference maker. He’s a calm, no-nonsense defender who doesn’t take chances and doesn’t panic. Hector, who moved to the right side, looked much better alongside him. Aina was more comfortable on the right and Max Clark had an excellent game on the left. Going forward, Bowen also looked much happier on the right, Irvine’s effervescence has been missing and Diomande worked hard in front of Clark.

Forest weren’t as good as they showed on the telly in the last round or as they were at the KCOM in the league earlier this season. That might have changed had Carayol’s effort from distance not gone just wide after only 3 minutes. City worked their way into the game and Marshall was untested for the next 70 minutes or so. The ball was worked out of defence far better than recently with little drama. Aina was a good out ball and Stewart and particularly Henriksen offered a route into midfield while a big diagonal towards Diomande or Irvine presented a good alternative.

Henriksen had a low free kick pushed away by Smith and then Bowen just failed to get onto a Hector pass with the keeper out quickly. Smith and Worrall then got in a right mess from an Irvine flick on and Bowen instinctively shot first time towards the empty net but hit the post. Only a minute or two later, Dicko slid Bowen in on the right, he drove at Mancienne who deflected his shot onto the top of the post and it dropped over the line [1-0].

City were well on top with Stewart and Henriksen winning the midfield, Irvine irritating the life out of them and Dicko making intelligent runs wide to drag defenders around. We didn’t have much to show for it other than a tame Aina shot until five minutes before half time when Irvine looped a cross to the back post, Bowen won the header well and nodded it back for Dicko to beat Mancienne in the air and head it in, off the post again [2-0].

Other than ref Stuart Attwell being as inconsistent as ever, there hadn’t been much to worry City. Carayol did miss a good chance before the break though, running off Aina to head wide but not wide enough for it to become a tap-in for Brereton. In stoppage time, Diomande missed a golden opportunity of our own. Bowen slid him in, he turned down a shot with his left and when he cut inside, everything closed in on him and Mancienne kicked his effort away easily.

Forest were booed off by their 4,000 fans at half time. They’d clearly thought it was going to be a cakewalk and showed their anger at it being anything but. There was a lot of the Sheffield Wednesdays about them.

Half time: Hull City 2 Nottingham Forest 0.

Despite a double change by Aitor Karanka, Forest remained second best. Dicko was foiled by a good save from Smith after a slick passing move as City dominated territory but consistently failed to pick the right pass or cross around the box and turned down numerous shooting opportunities. Dowell hit the outside of the post with a free kick from nowhere and there was a goalmouth scramble after Marshall got caught under a corner.  Speaking of corners, we saw one of the worst ever from Dowell who whipped a corner low and hard and it went out of play almost before it reached the penalty area. It was hilarious.

City introduced Keane for Dicko and then Grosicki for Diomande. Both got generous applause for an afternoon of hard graft. Within minutes, Grosicki had found Keane twice but both times Smith saved tame efforts. Marshall saved superbly from Cash’s backpost header before Grosicki and Bowen had chances to shoot and made things easy for Smith in their goal. Bowen’s was a great chance. We could have been five or six up easily at that point but ended up clinging on after Cash’s superb cross dissected our entire defence and sub Vellios volleyed in [2-1]. We did so without much drama, in truth.

Full time: Hull City 2 Nottingham Forest 1.

The win was very much deserved and the performance a dramatic improvement on last week. Hector and Aina both looked different players in a defence marshalled superbly by Mazuch. That will give Adkins a huge selection dilemma against Leeds on Tuesday night. It’d be hard to justify any team that doesn’t have these four in it.

Midfield will also give the manager a headache. Stewart and Henriksen were mobile, worked well off each other and moved the ball well. Henriksen couldn’t tackle a crossword in the Beano but this was possibly the best I’ve seen from him and did a god job of being in the right place at the right time at both ends of the pitch. Stewart still lacks something. Everything good he does is followed by something not-so-good. He turned brilliantly on the edge of their box and then passed to them. He made a superb interception on the edge of ours and then trod on the ball. It just seems to happen to him. You’d think Larsson would come back in with him having been our outstanding player in the last 6 weeks but dropping anyone is harsh.

To complete the set, there are decisions up front too. Dicko scored and lead the line brilliantly. Diomande protected Clark far better than Grosicki ever has but Grosicki’s cameo showed he’s a far bigger threat than Dio. And we just look a better side with Irvine in it.

I can therefore comfortably predict Tuesday’s team will be: Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone - Someone -Bowen – Someone.

Beyond that, we’re still in the Cup and can eagerly await Monday’s draw (Away to Wigan).

A good day.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Hull City: The Highs and Lows of 2017



The final blog of 2017 will look at the ten best and worst moment of Hull City's year.


Highs

Silva. An outstanding appointment that gave City a fighting chance of staying in the premier League when previously, we had none. Not just a very good coach and tactician but he came with his own staff and little black book of transfer targets, which was desperately needed. Improvement was immediate and obvious and the re-birth of players like Tom Huddlestone, who was in the form of his City career until his sending off at Everton, and the improvement in the likes of Harry Maguire showed Silva’s quality.

League Cup. The run to the semi-finals of the league Cup for the first time ever was the highlight of Mike Phelan’s reign and a credit to him. The second leg against Manchester United was a fantastic night at the KCOM Stadium spoiled only by the tiny crowd. It was by far the most aggressive performance I’ve ever seen from City. We had ten outfield players in Manchester United’s half pushing them back and the second goal was a beauty from back to front.

Liverpool. One of the rare occasions this year when the ground was full, we deservedly beat a very good Liverpool side with goals fron N’Diaye and Niasse. The Niasse goal being enjoyed across the country made it particularly memorable. This win made everyone sit up and take notice of Silva and his side.

Middlesbrough. Just a wonderful game of football and an outstanding attacking display from City. As usual under Silva, going behind didn’t bother us and we ripped into Boro. Markovic and Grosicki were out of this world.

Watford. This was one of our bravest Premier League performances. The (incorrect) decision to send off Niasse sparking a fantastic response from City and Sam Clucas’s world-class volley was the icing on the cake.

Southampton. A fantastic point was earned away from home by Eldin Jakupovic’s injury time penalty save. As we stood celebrating with the players in the away end at St. Mary’s that day, there was no way we were going down. I look back now to that moment and I still cannot quite believe the team that lost the next three games so pathetically was the same.

Bowen. After a tumultuous summer (see lows) watching Jarrod Bowen score his first City goal to seal a point at Aston Villa was a great pick-me-up. He has been the highlight of a shocking season so far and if not for all the misery going on around it – seeing one of our youth players step into the Championship and bag eleven goals in half a year would be far more celebrated.

Doncaster. As a regular watcher of the City “yoof”, I was proud to see a team full of them step up and give a League One side a really good game in the League Cup. Many lads made their debut that night and some will never make another appearance but it was a great moment for them.

Birmingham. The nature of City’s bi-polar team this year has meant that most of the few games we have won have been thumpings. This was a real hammering though as City tore a poor Birmingham side to shreds and the array of attacking players, many signed in the summer, filled their boots for one afternoon.

Brentford. Nigel Adkins first game in charge was a good one and in spite of the flaws in the squad he’s inherited, City showed a lot of character to come from behind to win – and should have scored two or three more goals in doing so. Brentford are the only top half team (and only just) that we have beaten this season so this is not a result to sniff at.



Lows

WBA. The end of Mike Phelan’s reign was another hapless away defeat against a rival at the bottom end of the table. The arrival of Marco Silva brought about many changes to the City squad and performances but the god awful defending from set pieces was never resolved.

Swansea. Silva’s first game in charge should have been an occasion. Instead, due to disinterest and fans boycotting, it played out in front of just 6,608. The club’s lowest home FA Cup attendance since the Kettering replay in 2000. Low gates have plagued the club for 18 months now. I wonder why?

Ryan Mason. An obvious one. As scary an incident as I’ve seen on a pitch. Whether Ryan comes back or not - that he’s able to live his life normally is enough.

Aways. In two leagues and three competitions, City’s away record in 2017 has been dreadful. Wretched performances have happened far too often. Fulham, Stoke, Palace, QPR, Derby and more.

2017 away record - P24 W1 D7 L16

Sunderland. One of the ultimate “typical City” days in our history. Coming off the win over Watford and the draw at Southampton, survival was in our own hands. Then came already relegated Sunderland at home and a result that was unbelievable and entirely predictable at the same time.

Spurs. Humiliating relegation the week before at Crystal Palace seemed as bad as things could get. And then our final Premier League game, and there isn’t likely to be another one anytime soon, saw us concede seven to Spurs. It was our heaviest top-flight defeat and our heaviest ever at home outside of Wartime football. A truly embarrassing day.

Sales. Relegation was always likely to see key members of the squad depart, especially as the owners had been so negligent when it came to contracts. However, the amount of departures surprised everyone. Players I’d expected to stay like Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone couldn’t get away quick enough once an offer came in. It was shambolic and made the new manager Leonid Slutsky look a fool day after day. It would have been worse still had Abel Hernandez not suffered a serious injury in August. He’ll likely now walk for free in the summer.

Signings. Losing Marco Silva and half of the squad was bad but it could have been tempered by sensible recruitment. Instead, we almost exclusively signed players on loans and free transfers ahead of the start of the season and then spent only a fraction of the money raised by sales late in the transfer window. By that point, pre-season and several games had gone meaning crucial league games became the testing ground for the new manager and his squad to get to know each other and the environment to try and get players fit. In both cases, we failed miserably.

Sheff Utd. The end of the road for yet another manager. Performances under Slutsky were abject for a while but this was the lowest of the low. A hammering to a rival in a game we took the lead in, and conceding four times to bloody Leon Clarke, was inexcusable. While he’d been let down badly by his superiors, it was obvious that Slutsky couldn’t get anything out of the players he had been left to work with.

Allams. Demolished the squad. Devastated the staff. Decimated the fanbase. The club is going nowhere with them in charge.

Happy New Year, Hull City fans!