Friday, 8 August 2014

Steve Bruce's one mistake

It's fair to say that two years into his tenure at Hull City and having signed 26 first team players - Steve Bruce has only made one big error.

That came in the gangly shape of Nick Proschwitz. Signed from Paderborn of Bundesliga II in July 2012 for 3 million euros, "Big Nick" was finally shipped out to Brentford on a free transfer yesterday.

I'm not sure exactly when Steve Bruce realised that Nick was never going to be the target man that City had been desperately chasing for the previous two years but it didn't take long.

Even in the first couple of friendly matches, he looked out of his depth. Despite his height, six foot four inches or so, he didn't win many headers and it was obvious that he had no strength or pace.

Friendlies aren't usually a good place to judge a player but in Proschwitz's case it proved fairly accurate. As a result he struggled to win a first team place even though fellow striker Matt Fryatt was injured and Bruce didn't rate Aaron McLean either.

His Hull City career looked like finally taking off when he came on as a substitute against Ipswich on October 20th 2012 and turned the game around late with two brilliant headers from Elmohamady's crosses.

It was a false dawn - things didn't change. The final nail in his coffin came at Blackpool on new years day 2013 when he was given a rare chance to start but his weakness were there for all to see. He lost aerial battles with midgets. He turned like a tractor in the snow. He failed to hold the ball up, get on the end of crosses or vaguely trouble a defence.

He had fleeting moments in a City shirt, particularly in cup competition where he bagged terrific goals at Orient in the 12/13 League Cup and Middlesbrough in the 13/14 FA Cup. He was a fine finisher given a chance but his all-round game was so ineffective that when he played league games - those chances rarely came.

Bruce would have gladly given him away last summer, even though it meant admitting his huge error, but Nick's wages after promotion proved prohibitive to other clubs. In the end he was shipped off to Barnsley on loan but couldn't help them stave off relegation.

As a financial transaction, Proschwitz's hefty price tag and wage make him the third biggest flop in City history - behind the useless but nice Seyi Olofinjana and the waste of space Jimmy Bullard.

What separates Proschwitz from those two, and the likes of Peter Halmosi and Anthony Gardner, is that his name will always be written in Hull City folklore for one positive reason.

On May 4th 2013 with a massive chance of promotion to the Premier League drifting away against Cardiff, Bruce threw Proschwitz on as a sub and he responded with a crucial goal from close range that would eventually help seal promotion. Even though his missed penalty meant an agonising wait for it to be confirmed by results elsewhere.

For that alone, the outlay was justified. And it's also why I couldn't wish Big Nick anything but luck in his career in the future. I am pleased it's not here though.

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