Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Mansfield 0 Hull City 1: Michael Dawson is The Tigers latest injury concern

Hull City travelled to Mansfield Town for the second of five senior pre-season friendlies on “home” soil. Home meaning England, not the KCOM Stadium where we no longer bother to prepare.

Pre-season is about developing fitness first and foremost but for City the only objective for the trip to Nottinghamshire was avoid injuries. Do you hear? At all costs – avoid injuries. Remember that.

I’ve not been to Mansfield before. I’m not sure how I’ve missed some of City’s previous trips to Field Mill/One Call Stadium but given the results and performances I’ve listened to and then read about in horror down the years – I’m half glad I wasn’t there.

The Stadium is OK. Three sides are very nice. The stand behind one goal housing 142 City fans and the empty stand at the other are small, modern stands with no restricted view. Along one side ran another nice stand that held the bulk of the 1,500 and summat crowd and a very nice family bar underneath where we grabbed a quick pint. My companions then grabbed a couple more during the first half so thrilling was the action!

The fourth stand, a dilapidated wood and corrugated plastic monstrosity has been ingeniously put to use as a massive advertising board. It’s as attractive as Terry Dolan’s CV but I suppose it fills some coffers.

The other notable thing about Mansfield is that it was hotter than the sun. Opening the car door in the car park at the train station felt like opening the jaws of hell. When Michael Dawson limped off the pitch after half an hour joining Allan McGregor, Alex Bruce, Moses Odubajo, Adam Diomande and, presumably, Harry Maguire and Jake Livermore on our ever-growing injury list – I’m certain the jaws of hell seemed a preferable destination to Steve Bruce than Field Mill. Daws will have a scan on a potential medial ligament injury. With my very untrained eye, it looked like something that will keep him out weeks rather than months but I’m almost certain he’ll now miss the start of the season.

City 4-4-1-1
Dusan Kuciak
Ahmed Elmohamady – Michael Dawson – Curtis Davies – Andy Robertson
Robert Snodgrass – Mo Diame – Tom Huddlestone – Sam Clucas
Shaun Maloney
Greg Luer

The positions are notional. City interchanged like a five aside game at times, particularly in the second half when Andy Robertson had replaced Tom Huddlestone at centre back (Hudds replaced Daws) and Sam Clucas was attempting to play ten positions in one half.

The half took a while to get into gear. Sam Clucas was booed by the Mansfield muppets for ten minutes or so until they got bored and while City moved the ball around, they were playing without purpose. Maloney and Huddlestone had strikes deflected narrowly over and wide respectively while Pat Hoban shot wide from a quick Stags’ break as Dawson was suffering his injury.

Jarrod Bowen replaced Dawson and had a fine game. I like this kid. I think he’s got it. He would have been involved in the first team picture at the back end of last season for me and he certainly will be for the foreseeable future given that Steve Bruce and Mike Phelan will otherwise have to play at Scunny on Saturday. Bowen’s got pace and skill with the ball at his feet and a fine left foot but he’s making better decisions with every game and his effervescence adds something to the team.

With half time approaching and Dawson’s injury casting a shadow over the game, City had two good chances to go in front. Snodgrass slid in Maloney, ten yards from goal to the left of the penalty spot and in an improbable amount of space but he shot too close to the ‘keeper, Brian Jensen. The big Dane then beat away a shot from Snodgrass from inside the penalty area after great work by Maloney.

Half time: Mansfield Town 0 Hull City 0

The second half suffered from the usual gaggle of substitutions with both clubs making them in dribs and drabs to elongate the agony. Josh Tymon (for Huddlestone) and Eldin Jakupovic (for Kuciak) came on at half time, Peter Odemwingie (for Maloney) then Greg Olley (for Diame) and finally Abel Hernandez (for Snodgrass) followed later in the half.

City dominated the half with Mansfield weakened by their substitutions and, in truth, not that strong to start with. They didn’t look as accomplished as Grimsby Town on Friday but did break with speed through Hamilton and Hoban but rarely put a foot on the ball. There were several moments of quality, often through Diame, that went nowhere before we eventually took the lead when Maloney found space on the left and slid the ball through for Bowen who’d made a fantastic run and finished beautifully on the run with his left foot [0-1].

Being the closest thing we’ve got to a signing so far – albeit one we probably don’t want – Peter Odemwingie caused a bit of a stir. He made his first successful ten-yard pass leading to a City fan shouting “sign him”. Given that he’s got knees with working ligament, I think he’s close to a contract already. The former Nigerian international striker played wide on the left when he came on and wasn’t involved much. He’s still pretty mobile and was a willing runner but he wasn’t involved anywhere near enough to judge him. He did get one sight of goal when City broke quickly and Abel played him in on the left. He steadied himself and shot hard and low against the foot of the near post. Greg Luer pounced on the rebound but was denied by a terrific goal-line clearance.

Odemwingie was the second Tiger to hit the woodwork after Greg Olley had burst onto a pass in the box and shot well but close enough for Jensen to tip the ball onto the bar. It was another decent little cameo from Olley who continues to impress with his composure on the ball and his intelligent movement off it.

Full time: Mansfield Town 0 Hull City 1

This was never anything more than a light run-out in the early throes of pre-season. That its lead to another potentially serious injury for City has to worry Steve Bruce. We’ve not got anywhere near strenuous in matches yet and the players are dropping like Elmo in the penalty area.

Will we even have a team to face Leicester? At the moment it’d be made up of fans, coaches and kids from the reserves. Which is why it’s probably a small consolation that the most impressive player on the fine looking turf at Field Mill was Jarrod Bowen.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Tigers Transfer Talk: Fighting talk from Steve Bruce

Here’s a round-up of this week’s transfer lines in the always tumultuous world of Hull City AFC.


July 9th

Radio Humberside’s David Burns sparked debate and mass misery on Twitter by suggesting City have a transfer budget of around £18m. Given that very average players are going for £15m these days (*cough* Jordan Ibe *cough*) and we need at least 3-4 signings, that doesn’t sound like an awful lot of money.

I don’t mind how much or how little City spend. I’ve said after every promotion that if we just want to pocket the money, have a go and accept that we’re likely to be relegated, ala Burnley, then it’s OK by me. I think Steve Bruce would seriously disagree though.

July 11th

The arrival of our local media in Portugal for the clubs training camp (they were allowed two days’ access) meant we finally heard from Steve Bruce on a range of issues from his future to the vacant England manager’s job to transfers. Bruce appeared to confirm David Burns’ thoughts on the transfer funds available when he told the club’s in-house media "It's going to be very difficult with our budget to compete".

Bruce then revealed that his budget is going to be stretched massively as Allan McGregor (Back) and Alex Bruce (Achilles) have injuries that require surgery and will keep them out for between 4-6 months.

In a very good interview you can find on Matt Dean’s Facebook page, Bruce went on to answer questions on specific transfer targets. Bruce confirmed a liking for Spurs’ Ryan Mason but said he’s not made any approach yet. He said that free-agent Hal Robson-Kanu is a definite target and he has a meeting arranged with his advisors. The manager seemed frustrated that Lamine Sane’s name had been leaked, perhaps at the Bordeaux end, but confirmed his interest. He also revealed that he’d tried to sign Papy Djilobodji before he joined Chelsea and thus retained an interest.

Bruce seemed frustrated throughout the interview and answered questions about the club’s future and the budget he’s been set with “You’ll have to Ask Ehab”. That was also his response when he revealed that former City loanee Nick Powell was likely to join Wolves despite City offering him a contract. Bruce hinted that his Vice-Chairman had messed this one up. Bruce clearly believes he's bullet-proof at City or he just doesn't care. Either way, he's a brave man publicly calling out an Allam.

A report in The Sun says Brighton and Israel midfielder Beram Kayal has just a year left on his contract and Hull City are set to tempt the Seagulls with a £1.5m bid. This didn’t come up in the interviews with Bruce so it seems unlikely that there’s anything in it. That will be a shame because Kayal is a good box-to-box midfielder who’ll add bite to a midfield.

Isaac Hayden joined Newcastle on a permanent deal from Arsenal. The fee was undisclosed but I’ve heard it’s £2.5m up front and potentially £4m with add-ons. Hayden’s a good young player and City clearly retained some interest in bringing him back to the KCOM Stadium but it’s a lot of money for a player who’ll only be “one for the future”.

Another rumoured City target Jeff Hendrick was the subject of a rejected £3m bid from Burnley according to the Telegraph. That is a very low bid for the Derby midfielder who impressed so much at the European Championship.

Former City youngster Sonny Bradley, now aged 24, joined Plymouth on a two year deal from League Two rivals Crawley.

July 12th

Steve Bruce confirmed his interest in Hal Robson-Kanu yesterday. He’s a player I like a lot when he plays for Wales and I think he has more potential than he shows playing for Reading, generally out wide. He’s available for free and considering City are working on a tight budget, that makes him a no-brainer of a signing to give options up front. However, reports today suggest Chinese clubs, presumably having seen him in the Euros, are offering him £100k a week contracts. You hear “the game’s gone mad” comments weekly these days and it’s very appropriate here.

Nick Powell didn’t join Wolves, as suggested by Bruce, but instead signed for Wigan – a club he’s played for on loan previously. I don’t mind that City didn’t sign Powell because for all his obvious talent, he’s too often injured and has a questionable attitude. Our inability to sign a player ahead of Championship sides is quite worrying though.

July 13th

City are in the market for a goalkeeper after Allan McGregor’s injury. One target rumoured earlier in the summer was Charlton’s Nick Pope. He was the subject of a £900k bid from Burnley according to The Mirror. The bid was knocked back. Pope would be a solid number two keeper but City already have one of those in Jakupovic. He’s not going to come here and be number one and despite his cult status – Jakupovic being promoted to number one is a frightening prospect.

Sticking with goalkeepers, Southend signed Mark Oxley from Hibs. It’s the second time Phil Brown has signed Oxley having brought him to City from Rotherham when he was 17-years-old for £150k. He’s never lived up to that early promise.

July 14th

A quite day. Another ex-Tigers youngster was on the move though. Jonathon Margetts signed for Lincoln City after leaving Tranmere.

July 15th

The Sun claim City are about to make a £6m bid for Cardiff and Scotland ‘keeper David Marshall. He’d be a very good signing but that would use up a big chunk of our budget. That would sicken Steve Bruce who didn’t even have a goalie on his list a week ago.

The Hull Daily Mail suggest City are closer to a deal for Hal Robson-Kanu after productive talks with his representatives.

City opened pre-season at Grimsby and, within five minutes, Moses Odubajo suffered a potentially serious injury. The squad is already paper-thin so having to buy a right-back would be another problem Steve Bruce could live without. You can read all about the game here.

One way The Tigers could stretch their small budget is clever use of the loan market. I believe that’s an area they are looking into ambitiously.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Grimsby Town 0 Hull City 0: How serious is Moses Odubajo's knee injury?

Hull City’s first pre-season fixture of the summer produced a goalless draw at Blundell Park against Grimsby Town.

The Tigers may well be a Premier League side again but the paper thin squad looked anything but ready for a top flight campaign with Harry Maguire the only senior outfield player on the bench. Abel Hernandez and David Meyler haven’t returned from international duty yet and Ahmed Elmohamady has visa issues. I’ve no idea where Adama Diomande was. Working on Immingham docks? Walking the donkeys on Cleethorpes beach? Who knows?

The squad situation wasn’t helped when Moses Odubajo went down inside three minutes and failed to bounce back up. His knee bent backwards in the challenge and he was down a good few minutes before limping off with the help of two physios. He looked a little more comfortable as he headed down the tunnel but Steve Bruce said post-match that he may have a dislocated knee-cap which would put paid to his season. I hope that it’s not the case. Not just because we’ll then have to buy another player on our miniscule budget but became Moses is a really good guy who deserves his shot at the Premier League. I’d be heartbroken for him.

City 4-4-2-0
Eldin Jakupovic
Moses Odubajo – Michael Dawson – Curtis Davies – Andy Robertson
Robert Snodgrass – Jake Livermore – Tom Huddlestone – Sam Clucas
Mo Diame – Shaun Maloney

The biggest surprise of the entire night was that my car was still intact when I got back to it. We parked in an area that resembled a scene from Shameless but luckily, it didn’t catch fire. Still, if you need a slightly soggy sofa – I know plenty of gardens for you to choose one from.

I’ll skip over much of the game because there’s not a great deal to say. It wasn’t a bad game (for pre-season), the tempo was decent (for pre-season) and the players looked in good shape (for pre-season). There just wasn’t much in the way of goalmouth opportunity.

It felt odd not to be starting pre-season at North Ferriby. That’s a rare occurrence these days. Because City were wearing their new sort-of-black away kit, we got a clash of two away kits. Grimsby sported a silver number with teal flashes that looked pretty good. Their team didn’t look bad either. They were neat and tidy in midfield, quick out wide and big in both boxes. They’ll cause plenty of teams problems this season. Omar Bogle gave Curtis Davies plenty to think about in the first half and they had a fair old battle. I’m not sure it’s a warm-up for the Premier League though, Curtis is unlikely to come across too many strikers who are six-foot-four-inches-tall and have a first touch somewhere between David Jones and Jamie Wood. But you never know.

Harry Maguire replace Odubajo early on and played at right-back. He faced a lively combination of Dominic Vose and Danny Andrew but was up to the challenge. City played some slick football in bursts and mid-way through the half switched to a 4-3-3/4-5-1 with Sam Clucas leading the line. Robert Snodgrass headed over the bar at the far post from a good left wing cross and Diame forced a save from James McKeown with a left-footed strike in the only moments of action.

Half Time: Grimsby Town 0 Hull City 0.

City made a solitary change at half time with Jarrod Bowen replacing Tom Huddlestone. Then on 54 mins, Josh Clackstone replaced a limping Harry Maguire and on 67 mins Josh Tymon, Greg Luer and Greg Olley came on for Diame, Robertson and Snodgrass. Johan Ter Horst’s introduction for Maloney on 77 mins was the final change.

The youngsters brought plenty of vitality with them and created most of our second half opportunities. I’ve seen these lads an awful lot in the last year and there is plenty of quality amongst them.

Sam Clucas’s corner was headed clear only for Jarrod Bowen to control and volley against the angle of post and bar from 25 yards. Clucas then beat centre half Pearson with a near post run to connect with Robertson’s ball in but fluffed his shot by kicking against his own foot from 6 yards. Diame pounced on a mistake in midfield and fed Snodgrass who shaped to curl one from 12 yards or so but McKeown saved well.

At the other end Pearson looped a header just over with Jakupovic in his neon orange keeper kit worried about it before the same player smashed the crossbar with a header from a free kick and was unlucky to see it bounce down, onto the line and out. With time running down, Greg Olley curled just wide from a short Clucas free-kick awarded after Bowen was pushed over on the corner of the area and Olley then collected a terrific pass from Livermore, stepped inside and forced another save from McKeown.

Full Time: Grimsby Town 0 Hull City 0.

So ended a fairly decent game (for pre-season) with City looking fit and strong but the work-out being totally over-shadowed by the injury to Odubajo.

City now face North Ferriby United tomorrow with none of the senior squad being involved after tonight’s action. The way things are currently – I’d suggest hiding them all in a storage container until the real stuff starts against Leicester City on August 13th. There are plenty on Grimsby docks to choose from. Just make sure they don’t get shipped off to China – the transfer window doesn’t close there until midnight!

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