Monday, 6 August 2018

Hull City 1 Aston Villa 3: Same mistakes, different season

Was it nice to be back at the KCOM Stadium for one of the warmest nights of football I've ever seen in this country? To welcome Aston Villa to our 2/3 empty mausoleum? Eh, no.

Villa have had a torrid few months since their play-off final loss but already have new owners, a squad full of very good footballers and an experienced manager and are making plans to spend big money on new arrivals. Meanwhile City are 4 years into the Allam nightmare and showing no signs of waking up. 

This game was never going to define our season but unfortunately did expose many of the weaknesses that everyone already knew we had. It's going to be a tough old campaign until those weaknesses are overcome by the players learning and learning quickly. I wouldn't say that the bubble of optimism has burst because, honestly, I don't think there was any in the first place. 

The City players started the game well and lead early on when the Villa keeper, Steer, could only punch a free kick to Evandro and he somehow lobbed it into the corner with Villa defenders looking up into the bright sky accusingly [1-0]. It was lovely that the goal came during a minute's applause for Stanley Metcalf, the young fan sadly killed recently at just 7 years old.

Unfortunately, the lead didn't last long as Tommy Elphick headed in unchallenged by Jordy De Wijs at the far post - exposing the city back line and not for the only time in the game [1-1]. 

That back four contained three new signings and you could almost make that four with Stephen Kingsley, who played so little football last season. Burke and De Wijs did work hard together to try and build understanding and some of the basics were there in their positioning and work off the ball to manage Kodjia but De Wijs is a big clumsy oaf with the finesse of a bulldozer who is far less capable a footballer than he thinks he is. Lichaj had a very solid game right back but Kingsley made Elmo look like the sprightly flying wing he was about 5 years ago. Some City fans weren't fussed by Max Clark's departure. Idiots. 

Despite Villa shading possession for the rest of the hald, City created the best chance when Campbell slid Bowen in behind but Steer was quick off his line and smothered. That was about as good as it got at either end. City went into the break having looked comfortable and having played some neat football particularly through the classy Evandro, Batty and Todd Kane. Kane was a very lively although neutered by playing on the left. Evandro is just head and shoulders above the rest of ours. He'll take possession of the ball anywhere, under any pressure and look after it. The others need to follow his lead, particularly Henriksen who disappointed. 

The second half followed a very similar pattern for the opening quarter of an hour with Villa dominating the ball but City offering occasional threat on the counter attack. Sadly mistakes began to creep into our performance with De Wijs failing to control the ball on a couple of occasions- presenting it to them - and then Henriksen racing towards his own goal in a flutter and being very lucky to avoid gifting them a goal.

Just after City made changes to try and take the game to Villa with the arrival of another debutant in David Milinkovic and Nouha Dicko for Todd Kane and Fraizer Campbell, Villa were gifted a lead. David Marshall chipped a goal kick straight to Elmo and he slotted the ball into the bottom corner [1-2]. 

It gets harder and harder to defend Marshall whose City career has been a disaster since day one and this was another calamitous episode. The guy is absolutely cursed, I'm  convinced. It's hard to see how he can possibly turn around such a faltering career here. It's sad because the guy has been a fantastic goalkeeper at times in his career but we've never seen it. It's also extra frustrating because City matched Villa, for all their "names", to that point with some comfort. Individual errors have crippled us for the best part of three years now. Something has to change.

However, conceding 2 abysmal goals was not enough for City so of course the defence stood and watched as Alan Hutton of all people ran through our defence like Maradona breaking apart Reid, Butcher and Co in Mexico and slipped the ball beyond Marshall (who was present in body but not mind after his gaffe) [1-3].

There was no coming back from that. You cannot concede such pathetic goals at this level and expect to get anything out of games. Milinkovic put in a spirited performance but the game had long gone. 

Positives: Evandro is our brightest hope. Batty was assured. Kane is lively. Lichaj had a very solid game. Burke shows promise. Campbell was better than he's been all pre-season. Milinkovic was bright. Not every team has individuals the quality of Villa.

Negatives: We already look like we need to make changes when chopping and changing killed us last season. Marshall already. Kingsley has never shown anything. De Wijs is nowhere near. There is no sign of the 2/3 more signings we clearly need.

We should have stayed in the Gemmell.

Monday, 30 July 2018

North Ferriby United 0 Hull City 2: Tigers' Eye View


It was nice to see Hull City take to the field at the Chadwick Stadium to face North Ferriby United for the Billy Bly trophy after all – for most of pre-season it didn’t appear that it would happen.


The game against Ferriby used to be the curtain raiser for pre-season and is always a great chance to see the players up close in a low-key environment. It’s a huge help to a lovely local club too. Sadly, it’s been eroded somewhat in reason years with City splitting the squad for the game and then sending only the U23s. Tonight saw a strongish mix of seniors and U23s take to the field and the rest of the squad in attendance to sign autographs and take pictures with delighted young fans. As the heart has been ripped out of club in recent years, it’s nice to be reminded of the joy the players and the club bring to youngsters who idolise them. Now sort out them concessions, City.

Starting line-up:

Long

McKenzie – MacDonald – Curry – Fleming

Stewart – Sheaf

Milinkovic – Toral – Holmes

Campbell

City bossed the first half, kicking towards the Allotment End as dark clouds rolled in from the west threatening a downpour that never really came, but created few clear chances for the first half hour. Johnny Saltmer, one of several former City youngsters in the Ferriby ranks, saved well from a Jon Toral pot-shot and just beat Fraizer Campbell to an underhit James Piercy backpass. Elliott Holmes jinked in from the right wing but Ben Leyland produced a great block. Saltmer saved from David Milinkovic but didn’t appear to know much about it and Adam Curry headed the resulting corner down and up onto the crossbar.

At the other end, James Nicholls headed Adam Bolder’s corner onto the top of the net in a rare foray forward for the Villagers. Milinkovic, who appears as frustrating as Kamil Grosicki with flashes of brilliance followed by moments of clumsiness then shot wide after exchanging passes with Brandon Fleming before outpacing Dan Nicholls, producing a lovely bit of skill on the bye-line and dinking a cross up for Toral to smash the bar with an overhead kick. The undisputed highlight of a mediocre half.

Half time: North Ferriby 0 Hull City 0

The second half started sluggishly for The Tigers and particularly for Kevin Stewart who was muscled off the ball by diminutive former City junior Luke Lofts who played in Jordan Harrison but his cross evaded everyone. Lofts, who was very impressive in midfield for the hosts then robbed Stewart again. I really want Stewart to come good and there is clearly a player in there somewhere but it’s terrifying that we’re watching him in pre-season against a side five divisions below City and he’s still getting caught on the ball. He picked up some useful second balls in the first half but generally didn’t impact a game he ought to be running.

Toral, who was probably the pick of the senior City players along with MacDonald, then slid in Campbell who went through on the right and somehow bobbled his shot wide of the post. Campbell then met a brilliantly whipped cross from Fleming but it went straight at Saltmer. Sub Jack Smith made an excellent block to deny Toral who then hit another overhead kick that went wide. Tyler Hamilton replaced Toral and, unconnected, City finally found a breakthrough. Fleming marauded brilliantly on the left and tricked his way inside Smith who fouled him. Milinkovic whipped in the resulting free-kick and Campbell flicked it in from around the near post [0-1].

Daniel Batty replaced Stewart and Billy Chadwick came on for Campbell either side of the couple of moments that decided the game. Dan Nicholls headed a Ferriby corner inches over the bad with George Long stranded and complaining that he was held leaving the goal open. At the other end Milinkovic again races away from Ferriby’s defence and though his cross evaded Campbell, Elliott Holmes arrived to smash it home beyond the far post [0-2]. It was a tidy finish and a nice moment for Holmes who is a lovely little player.

Full time: North Ferriby 0 Hull City 2

Negatives: Stewart’s deficiencies have been described. Campbell still looks half a yard short of his best and missed chances he’d have buried once upon a time. Jackson Irvine was kitted out but had to go home ill. That’s a huge shame.

Positives: Brandon Fleming was the pick for City with his reading of the play, calm use of the ball and quality in the final third. MacDonald, McKenzie and Curry were very solid and MacDonald seemed to relish being handed the “you hit diagonals” role from Michael Dawson. Milinkovic showed a lot of ability in patches, Toral looked sharp and Holmes deserved his goal. The relationship between fans and players was lovely to see and, hopefully, North Ferriby made a few quid out of the game too.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Who are Hull City Under 23s? A rough guide.


A couple of years ago, I wrote a guide to the Hull City Under-21 squad (as was). Here is a very long overdue update which is timely given the high turnover of Under 18s and under 21s in the academy this summer.


The Inbetweeners

I’ll start with the players who I’ve dubbed “The Inbetweeners” – and not just for the photoshop opportunity. These lads are at the stage where they are starting to outgrow Under 23 football and could use a chance to play first team football at a senior level.

Daniel Batty - Midfielder - Age 20

‘Bats’ was the headline “graduate” from the academy last season. He’s a tenacious midfielder who loves a tackle and can spray a pass. He’s a real box to box midfielder who takes responsibility for the ball, leads on the field and can shoot from distance. He joined City after being released by Leeds United aged 15 and their loss is very much our gain.

He broke through into the first team squad last season after a short loan spell at Halifax in the National League, in which he scored twice – making his full debut at Brentford on the final day. With some patience, he has the ability to step up regularly this season but if his route to regular football is blocked, he must go out on loan.

Callum Burton - Goalkeeper - Age 21

Callum is one of two very capable young goalkeepers who have outgrown the Under 23s but are unlikely to feature on matchdays due to the signing of George Long. A young England international at three age levels, he joined City from Shrewsbury last summer. Whilst with the Shrews, he’s already had loan spells at six non-league clubs.

He’s tall and agile and demonstrated his maturity during a short loan spell at Salford last season. He is more than ready to play first team football somewhere – the club need to work hard to make it happen.

Will Mannion - Goalkeeper - Age 20

While a little younger than Callum Burton, Will is in the same boat. He’s an outstanding goalkeeper who needs to play senior football. While not the tallest at just over six foot, he’s physically strong and fills the goal. He’s very decisive for a young ‘keeper and has superb reflexes.

He also has caps for England at U19 level earned before and after he joined City from AFC Wimbledon in 2016 in a deal that cost £100k in compensation and could rise to £225k if he meets the targets. Will had a comical loan spell at Plymouth last season joining during a keeping emergency in Devon, playing one game the same evening in that Checkatrade Cup thing, losing and returning to City the same week. It will have given him a taste for the action though and a proper spell out on loan will be hugely beneficial to him.

Adam Curry - Central Defender - Age 21

City signed Adam from South Shields in November 2015 but saw hardly anything of him until the middle of season due to a horrible run of injuries. He’s an imposing centre-half, mainly because he looks about 35, who is a good ball-winner and is very good with the ball at his feet.

He had a spell on loan at Boston in the National League North last season and scored on his debut which is particularly impressive because he doesn’t get near anything in the box at Under 23 games! Adam is another who needs to play regular football at 21 and wouldn’t let anyone down if called upon by the first team.

Tyler Hamilton - Winger - Age 19

Tyler is a local lad who went to St Mary’s College, like me. He’s a very exciting wide player who carries the ball well and commits defenders. He has trained with the first-team squad over the past couple of seasons and is very highly thought of.

If there’s a criticism of Tyler, it’s that he doesn’t score enough goals for the positions he gets in but he makes things happen and is a very forward-looking player. He’ll be looking forward (see what I did there?) to a taste of senior football this season.

Robbie McKenzie - Central Defender/Midfielder - Age 19

Robbie has been with the club a long time and has quietly progressed through the ranks. He’s played a lot of football at centre half in the last couple of seasons due a dearth of defenders in the senior and junior ranks but was originally a central midfielder and slots back in there comfortably enough.

He’s a great squad member. He’s quiet and unassuming but does the job effectively. He reads the game, times his tackles well and uses the ball nicely. He’s a senior member of the U23s – he’ll be 20 shortly – and needs to really test himself now.

The Under 23 squad

Charlie Andrew - Goalkeeper - Age 18 (1st year pro)

Charlie is a quality young goalkeeper who will spend next season on loan at Pickering Town. He was their player of the season last year as they secured promotion from the Northern Counties East League and he’ll be tested next season in the Evo-Stik League East Division.

He’s not the tallest ‘keeper but he’s brave and agile and makes excellent decisions. He has a lot of Jordan Pickford about him which means he’ll definitely be the England ‘keeper for World Cup 2022.

Brandon Fleming - Left Back - Age 18

Brandon is a small but resolute left-back who gets forward well and has a nice left foot. He’s been at City since he was 9 years old and already has a lot of experience of Under 23 football due to the ascension of his predecessors Josh Tymon and Max Clark into the first team picture.

He is another who had a spell out on loan last season, playing three games for Gainsborough Trinity. I’m sure he’d love to go out again but I’m not sure Jon Beale can spare him!

Lewis Ritson - Central Defender - Age 19

Like Adam Curry, “Ritto” is from the North East. He joined City at 16 and stands out on the pitch with his flock of ginger hair and his illegible accent but especially with his combative performances. He’s a really good leader who loves a battle but is a decent footballer too.

He’s very good in both boxes whether attacking the ball in the air or reacting to second balls and sniffs out a few goals.

Josh Thacker - Central Defender - Age 18 (1st year pro)

Josh is in the process of stepping up from the Under 18s having signed as a pro earlier this summer. He’s a calm, ball-playing defender who one former Under 16 coach told me gave him nightmares with his insistence on playing football even under ridiculous pressure. He’s powerfully built and another who loves a battle too.

A local lad, Josh’s Dad Martin is well known in East Riding football circles particularly as a player and manager at Hall Road Rangers.

Jordan Hickey - Defender / Midfielder - Age 18

Jordan is a new arrival from Sunderland who played for the Under 23s a couple of times on trial last season. He can play at centre half or as a defensive-minded midfielder and is known for his tough tackling and responsible attitude on and off the pitch.

Billy Chadwick - Midfielder - Age 18

Billy is an ultra-talented central midfielder whose progress was halted a couple of seasons by an ACL which he’s fought back from. He’s been tipped for big things at City from a young age and has always played up 2 or 3 age groups such is his awareness on the pitch and the maturity of his game.

He’s no shrinking violet and is guilty of the odd horrific tackle (think Paul Scholes) but his game is about seeing and playing a forward pass and getting around the box to create chances or get a strike on goal. His cousin, Carl, is the latest owner of North Ferriby United and I’m sure Billy has spent the summer being “tapped up”!

Max Sheaf - Midfielder - Age 18 (1st year pro)

Max is a striking tall, blonde midfield player who moves elegantly and takes a good set-piece. He joined City at the age of 16 having been at Arsenal for whom his brother Ben still plays. A third Sheaf brother, Jake, is a professional beach volleyball player.

During the friendly against a SportPesa All-Star team at the KCOM Stadium in February 2017, Max suffered a fractured skull following a sickening collision. It came only weeks after Ryan Mason’s injury at Chelsea. Fortunately, Max has recovered and now plays with a padded headband.

Elliott Holmes - Midfielder - Age 18 (1st year pro)

Elliott is an attack-minded midfielder who plays anywhere across the front and wide. He has good feet and acceleration and plays with his head up. He missed six months of last season with a back injury and is playing catch-up a little but impressed enough to earn a professional contract.

Ahmed Salam - Winger - Age 17 (1st year pro)

Ahmed is a left-back cum left-winger who has pace to burn and finishes well with his left-foot. He exploits space going forward but fits in at the back when needed.

Ahmed is one of the wider known members of the youth setup as Egyptian football website KingFut published interviews with him when he was just 15 because of his Egyptian parentage. His family are hugely supportive and present at most games. His brothers play locally too.

Callum Smith - Winger - Age 19

Callum is the other new signing in the Under 23 squad this season having left Newcastle United at the end of last season. He’s a left-winger with good delivery and an eye for goal who starred in Newcastle’s FA youth Cup runs a couple of years ago but slipped down their pecking order last season. Like Lewis Ritson, he has a namesake in professional boxing.

Keane Lewis-Potter - Forward - Age 17

Keane signed his first professional contract in February and unusually, signed for 2 ½ years. If you watch him, you’ll see why. He’s a small but clever forward with a lovely first touch who makes things happen around the box and makes perfectly times runs into space to create chances and score goals.

He’s not 18 yet but has scored goals for the Under 18s and Under 23s in the last two seasons

Tom Powell - Striker - Age 19

Tom joined City from Wigan last summer and was a favourite of the Under 23 manager keeping the likes of Greg Luer out of the team. He’s a stocky little front-man but a very willing runner who is always on the move and whose hold-up play is improving as is his finishing.

He can still be more involved in some games and you feel some might hold his lack of height as a centre-forward against him, even though he leaps well, but he has a really good attitude.

The Under 18s

Some of the “senior” Under 18 players will progress to the Under 23s this season, especially if players do go out on loan. Expect to see goalkeeper Harrison Foulkes, who joined from AFC Wimbledon like Mannion … Tall centre-half Jacob Greaves, son of ex-Tiger Mark Greaves, who can also play in midfield … strong right-back Jake Nicholls … exciting attacking left-back Matty Jacob … welsh winger Daniel Hawkins who was released by Swansea at the age of 16.