Friday, 26 May 2017

Tigers Transfer Talk: Can managerless Hull City keep their stars?

Here's the latest round-up of Hull City tranfer news from a week dominated by the future of Tigers' now ex-boss Marco Silva.

Saturday 20th May

In his column in the Daily Star, Paul Hetherington claimed six clubs are chasing City centre-half Harry Maguire. Spurs, Everton, Southampton, West Ham, WBA and Newcastle were the potential suitors mentioned. Hetherington said The Tigers hope interest in Big Harry, who has a year left on his contract and will not be extending it, "creates a bidding war and they bank £20m." That might be somewhat ambitious.

The Daily Star also claim Marco Silva is the favourite to take the vacant role at Watford while the Daily Mail have Silva as Southampton's choice to replace Claude Puel.

Sunday 21st May

In a story that appeared in the print version of the Guardian and was copied from "news" site to "news" site - Steve Bruce's Aston Villa were linked with signing Ahmed Elmohamady. The link is no surprise, Bruce signed the Egyptian for both City and Sunderland. It may well be the right time to depart for Elmo whose written his name into City history with two promotions and an appearance in the FA Cup Final but is coming off his worst season in black and amber.

In his programme notes ahead of the 1-7 drubbing at home to Spurs, Vice Chairman Ehab Allam wrote "There is no doubting that this coming summer will be a vital one for us but we’re looking forward to it. Plans are already underway in terms of rebuilding and reshaping the squad to ensure we give ourselves the best possible start to the season."

Tuesday 23rd May

According to the infamous "Sky Sources", Marco Silva flew to Portugal to hold talks with Porto about their vacant manager's job. This was later said to be a wind up amid claims Silva was in Switzerland signing a deal to become the face of a watch manufacturer at the time.

Millwall have offered a new contract to long term City target Fred Onyedinma. The 20 year old winger was linked with The Tigers and QPR as far back as April 12th by the Football League Paper. He's now out of contract at the Den and is said to have made up his mind about his future but QPR are firm favourites to snap him up.

Wednesday 24th May

The Tigers announced their "retained list". Alex Bruce was the only senior player released after Shaun Maloney was offered a new one year contract. Bruce caused a furore on Twitter by appearing to suggest Hull City's official tweet about the news was the first confirmation he'd had.

All six loan players have returned to their parent clubs. Unsurprisingly.

There were several releases in the U23 and U18 squads as striker Johan Ter Horst and defender Brad Maslen-Jones, signed from Folkstone Invicta and Peterborough respectively were let go along with forwards Luke Lofts and Marc Kelledy and right back Stephen Akbas. I hope all of these young players get a chance to get back into the game at a new club ASAP.

Crystal Palace were the latest club linked with a move for Marco Silva after Sam Allardycce's shock retirement. The Guardian say the club who doomed City to relegation want to pip Porto, Watford and Southampton to Silva.

Ghana Soccernet spoke to Anderlecht and "Black Stars" winger Frank Acheampong who claims a move to City fell through last summer as the Belgians would not let him go.

Thursday 25th May

At a meeting with Ehab and Assem Allam last night, Marco Silva informed the pair that he will be triggering the relegation release clause in his contract and leaving The Tigers. The news was finally confirmed on the official club website 24 hours after everyone had worked it out.

The Independent already claimed Silva was choosing between Watford and Crystal Palace as links with Porto and Southampton cooled.

Sky Sport Italia, who I'm not convinced exist, are said to have reported that ex-Tiger Andrea Ranocchia is a target for Watford, Olympiakos and - to really rub salt into still open wounds - Swansea City. Story via

In real news, the EFL announced a fee of £100,000 has been set for England U18 Goalkeeper Will Mannion whom The Tigers signed from AFC Wimbledon last summer.

Friday 26th May

Ehab Allam spoke to the club's in-house media (the only outlet he uses other than Sky Sports) about the departure of Marco Silva, the plans for summer tranfers and the unlikelihood of the club being sold.

The Telegraph were among many, many news sites to claim Marco Silva is closing in on a move to Watford. It's a club who's manager turnover makes Leeds United look sensible - good luck to him, he'll need it.

Matt Dean of Radio Humberside and Look North tweeted that he's reliably told Stoke City are interested in City starlet Josh Tymon. The left back turned 18 last week and is now able to sign a professional contract but has been unable to come to terms with City. I've previously been told of interest from the West Midlands in Josh.

In another rumour from Twitter, Polish Tigers fan Artur Klinski tells us that the media in Poland are saying Kamil Grosicki has offers from six Premier League clubs.

Hull City 2016/17 Review - Part 3: We had Marco Silva

Hull City appointed the relatively unknown Portuguese manager Marco Silva as “head coach” on January 5th 2017. Silva had enjoyed success throughout his managerial career at Estoril and Sporting Lisbon at home and then giants of Greek football Olympiakos. He admitted it would take a miracle to keep The Tigers in the Premier League but rarely looked afraid of the challenge.

Part 2: "Lost that loving Phelan" 

Silva’s arrival bemused many, most notably hard-of-thinking SKY Soccer Saturday pundits Paul Merson and Phil Thompson who mocked Silva and the club for not appointing a manager who “knows the league”. Looking at his nationality rather than his pedigree and spouting a small-minded opinion on national TV came back to bite them fairly quickly as Silva made a good start by beating Swansea in the FA Cup, Bournemouth in the Premier League and losing, with some misfortune, at Champions elect Chelsea.

While things were starting to turn around on the pitch, off it the club continued to bemuse everyone. Top scorer Robert Snodgrass and Jake Livermore were sold to West Ham and WBA respectively for £10m apiece. Selling Livermore to raise funds for the new manager wasn’t the worst decision. Selling the most creative and deadly member of the squad most definitely was. Despite having spent four months doing absolutely nothing at West Ham – Snodgrass finished 2016/17 as City’s top scorer.

The £20m raised was reinvested in a much needed reshape of the squad. Oumar Niasse (Everton), Omar Elabdellouai (Olympiakos), Lazar Markovic (Liverpool), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter Milan) and Alfred N’Diaye (Villareal) joined on loan with the club picking up their huge wages for five months. Kamil Grosicki signed for about £7m from Rennes. It was a scatter-gun approach to recruitment and severely short term thinking but it did address most of the weaknesses in the squad.

As well as changing the personnel, Silva changed the style of play, the mentality and made technical and tactical changes in just a few days. His favoured formation was 4-2-3-1 with two holding midfield players both breaking up and launching attacks and the pace of Markovic and Grosicki was utilised in counter attacking quickly and with quality. He showed his adaptability by also using 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 depending on the players available to him – the injuries and suspensions were still a regular occurrence.

The team pressed higher and earlier under Silva, particularly at home, and defenders were pushed up to close the spaces between the lines and deny the opposition room to play. He switched to using a zonal marking system from set pieces in light of the horrendous record of conceding from dead balls before he arrived and it improved things immediately. He also recognised the importance of individuals like Harry Maguire, Tom Huddlestone and Eldin Jakupovic and they became a fixture of the team.

Silva was never able to turn around the team’s terrible away form, though he had far tougher fixtures than Phelan, but won 8 of his first 9 home games and gave us a real chance of staying up. The victory over Manchester United, sadly in vain, in the second leg our first ever League Cup semi final (an achievement that no one can take away from Mike Phelan) came courtesy of one of the most complete performances I’ve ever seen from City. United had eleven men behind the ball at times as The Tigers dictated the game and scored a superb winning goal.

The home win over Middlesborough was the most thrilling Premier League performance at the KCOM Stadium in any of our five top-flight seasons. It was the third of Silva’s home victories that had necessitated coming from behind – a major weakness of ours for the last decade. When City brilliantly beat Watford in April having played for an hour with ten men and then took a rare away point at Southampton courtesy of Jakupovic’s late penalty save it showed that this squad had the bottle for the fight. Under pressure, they’d ground out results and showed the nerve, and the quality, required to stay up.
Then we lost at home to already relegated Sunderland. And that was that. Every weakness we’d ever had was exposed in a “typical City” performance in front of a big, expectant home crowd against the worst team in the league. We passed poorly, presence up front was non-existent, marking from set pieces was appalling and the composure and intelligence of prior matches was absent. By the time we played Crystal Palace away the following Sunday, we had to win to stay up. We were battered, same failings, and then royally hammered by Spurs at home to complete a miserable season whose moments of hope had been temporary, cruel and, eventually, heart breaking.

Despite his copy book having been blotted in the final few games of the season, Silva had been a massive success. He’d shown enough to make me think that if we’d somehow escaped the drop, he could have established us a comfortable mid-table team. In the event of relegation he had a release clause and being the career-focused personality he is, was always going to say “Adeus” to Hull. That was confirmed on 25th May.

The club now need to appoint his replacement in short order. They need to make the right appointment but it can’t take all summer. We have six loan players returning to their clubs and the likes of Harry Maguire, Andy Robertson and Abel Hernandez have one year left on their contracts and need to be sold while they still have good value. The rest of the squad need an inspiring leader and the club to show ambition to get promoted to keep the majority of them together. We can’t afford to leave buying players to the last minute AGAIN. The squad needs 8-10 additions and they need to be found and settled much earlier than the last few windows. This is a club that could eaily bounce back to the Premier League. But it’s one that could very easily break up and sink. It’s been held together by sticky tape in the shape of Steve Bruce and Marco Silva in the last two seasons. Attention is urgently needed.

My picks:

Player of the Season: Sam Clucas

Game of the Season: Hull City 4 Middlesbrough 2 (5th April)

Goal of the Season: Sam Clucas (vs. Watford)

Best Signing: Lazar Markovic

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Tigers Transfer Talk: Vultures circling around Silva and Maguire

It's back! A weekly (hopefully) review of the stories making the press about Hull City's plays and managers, past and future.

Andy Robertson to Liverpool is a done deal .... right?

Sunday 14th May

According to the Sunday Mirror - Andrew Robertson to Liverpool is a done deal. The left back was said to have agreed a move, despite City's season still being alive and well at press time, which would be announced on July 1st when the transfer window re-opens. Other newspapers have linked Robbo with a move to the Reds for around £8m.

The paper also suggested Harry Maguire is a target for Jurgen Klopp. Maguire has been heavily linked with Spurs stemming from an article in the Evening Standard last month.

Hello ... Goodbye?
Monday 15th May

With Hull City fans waking up to the reality of relegation from the Premier League, Harry Maguire was said to be interesting one of the teams who'll take our place. The Northern Echo say Harry is Rafa Benitez's preferred option to strengthen the centre of his defence where grant Hanley has been deemed surplus to requirements and despite the Geordies having run the rule over Sporting Lisbon’s Ruben Semedo.

Tuesday 16th May

The daily Harry Maguire rumour comes from The Mirror. They suggest that Newcastle want Leicester skipper Wes Morgan and that the Foxes will replace him with Maguire. According to the red-top "Maguire has one year left on his contract, but has turned down an extension and is set to quit (City)".

In a line that popped up in most other news reports, The Mirror say Tottenham are also interested in Harry but Leicester are offering a higher salary and better first-team prospects.

Wednesday 17th May

Don't fall off your chair but this is actually good news for a change - if it's anywhere near true of course. Italian football news site translate an article from La Gazzetta dello Sport and claim that Andrea Ranocchia, currently on loan at City from Inter Milan,wants to stay in England and isn't opposed to staying with The Tigers despite relegation. They do recognise that his wages and the previously rumoured fee of £8.2m might now be a problem.

This isn't the greatest source. They've run around 3 million stories on Abel Hernandez over the past three years of which none were ever true so I'm always wary of them.

Thursday 18th May

The news that Watford will target Marco Silva to replace Walter Mazzarri, sacked yesterday, made the back pages of some papers including The Express (left). The Telegraph also make Silva the front-runner to be the Hornets ninth manager in five years.

Brummie local paper Express & Star claim Wolves have sounded out Marco Silva to be their next boss. It's well known that Wolves didn't appoint Marco last summer and if his rumoured links with Jorge Mendes are true, with Mendes running things at Wolves - then it does make some sense. From a football point of view it would be a backwards step for Silva.

On a more positive note, although surely only a temporary reprieve, the Liverpool Echo report that Liverpool are unlikely to make a move for Andy Robertson despite the claims of The Sunday Mirror.

Friday 19th May

Apparently "Sky Sport italia" - whoever they are - are suggesting that if Marco Silva takes over at Watford then he'll target Andrea Ranocchia. Definitely an element of guesswork in this one but putting two and two together, it's not an unlikely outcome.

...and Finally

In the wake of Fulham's failure to make the Championship play-off final, ex-Tiger Tom Cairney has been linked with a huge money move to Newcastle or Bournemouth.

The Mirror reckon another former City player, Tom Ince, is also a target of Newcastle and could be allowed to leave Derby for £10m as the Rams look to raise funds for new manager gary Rowett to strengthen his squad.

It's that time of year when clubs post their "retained lists" of playing staff. These names from Tigers' past have been released so far: Michael Turner (Norwich), Hope Akpan (Blackburn), Paul Anderson (Northampton), Scott Wiseman (Scunthorpe), Mark Yeates (Notts Co) and Billy Paynter (Hartlepool). Wiseman and Anderson have already been scooped up by Chesterfield and Mansfield respectively.

Stats website Squawka have put together an XI from the best players, statistically, in the three relegated sides. They've gone with a crazy formation to fit them all in but Tigers Harry Maguire, Sam Clucas, Andy Robertson and Kamil Grosicki feature.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Hull City 2016/17 Review - Part 2: Lost that loving Phelan

As Hull City looked down from the top of the premier League table in late August 2016, there was no getting carried away with the situation. It had been noted as soon as the fixtures came out that the next block of five fixtures included games against Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea. Gulp.

Part 1 - "Summertime blues" 

The Tigers put in another valiant performance against Manchester United, despite losing to a late Rashford winner, and then finally took the opportunity to strengthen the squad ahead of the transfer deadline. In came goalkeeper David Marshall (Cardiff £3.5m), midfielders Ryan Mason (Spurs £13m), Markus Henriksen (AZ Alkmaar Loan) and James Weir (Man Utd Undisc.) and strikers Dieumerci Mbokani (Dinamo Kiev Loan) and Will Keane (Man Utd £1m). With two of the signings appearing to be “for the future”, it wasn’t enough but it was far better than nothing. Or at least it seemed so at the time.

City picked up another point courtesy of Robert Snodgrass’s last minute equaliser at Turf Moor, Burnley taking them to seven points. About seven more than anyone had predicted by this point. And then the wheels fell off the wagon spectacularly. They’d only manage six points and one more win before (spoiler alert) Mike Phelan was sacked in January.

Phelan felt the need to integrate the players he’d signed and eroded the incredible spirit that had built in the team in their time of adversity. The most egregious was the replacement in goal of zero-to-hero and new fans’ favourite Eldin Jakupovic with Scotland international Marshall. Phelan clearly felt he had to justify a £3.5m signing and neither he nor his predecessor Bruce had ever shown confidence in “the Jak” but the team seemed buoyed by his confidence and charisma. Marshall bore the brunt of the criticism as City conceded sixteen times in his first five league games but it wasn’t his fault. Phelan should never have put him in the position to be the fall guy.

City conceded four in Jak’s last game too making it twenty conceded in six matches. A run that eroded the confidence of the group and exposed a clear weakness defending set pieces, the ability to concede penalties at a ridiculous rate and an inability to keep eleven men on the pitch. The lowest point of the run came at Bournemouth where City, decked out in their new blackcurrant-vomit inspired third kit were hammered 6-1. The defending in the first half was shambolic and throwing in the towel after an hour was unacceptable. Those in attendance, including yours truly, have rarely seen a worse performance from a top flight City side.

After showing some bottle to bounce back from a cruel defeat at Watford and conceding yet another penalty after only five minutes to surprise Southampton, City sandwiched an uninspiring draw at home to West Brom with the performances that surely sealed Phelan’s fate. We were abject in defeat at Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Losing sloppy goals and failing to lay a glove on weak opposition.

Olympic Stadium, East Landan.
 Things did improve in December but a combination of bad luck and that weakness from set pieces meant results didn’t. The 3-3 draw at home to Crystal Palace was the game of the season but another missed opportunity. The white flag was shown at White Hart Lan to avoid a beating by Spurs and then the team bus ran over several black cats, their kittens and Witchy owners on the way to the Olympic Stadium. West Ham beat us one nil but only after we’d hit the post several times. Some unluckily but Mbokani’s a horrendous miss when as clean through as you will ever be. We then conceded another penalty.

Man City won at the (now) KCOM Stadium on Boxing day after another good City performance and that was followed by an unfortunate draw with Everton when we played well but let in soft equalisers – and one was definitely Marshall’s fault this time. Then came the end for Phelan. A 3-1 defeat to West Brom at the Hawthorns having lead with two of the goals coming from set pieces was another horrendous away day.

Phelan was out of his depth. There’s no doubt about that but he’d been unlucky too. The “backing” he’d received in the summer was appalling. He’d not been appointed permanently until it was clear Ehab Allam had failed to find a better option. Most of his signings came from a post-it not Steve Bruce left on a wall somewhere. Team selection was constantly upset by injuries and suspensions and explained a lot of the inconsistency in performances.

While there were mitigating factors, there was no defending… Actually, that sentence is finished. The repetition in the same mistakes was indefensible. The poor performances of very good players and the side-lining of others was inexcusable. The only thing supporting Phelan’s continued employment was the feeling that unless the Allams showed a renewed level of interest and invested some of the massive TV money in new players – no manager could do much better with this squad.

On January 3rd, Ehab Allam finally woke up and realised things had to change. Phelan and his coaching staff were dismissed and the club, second bottom of the Premier League with just thirteen points from twenty games went looking for a miracle worker…

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Hull City 2016/17 Review - Part 1: Summertime Blues

Hull City were relegated from the Premier League in 2016/17 before a ball was kicked in anger. That was a prediction in July 2016 and became a reality in May 2017. It was a season of twists and turns and more downs than ups but despite the best efforts of many people – it ended where it started.

Steve Bruce answering questions about Hull City's "quiet" summer.

Promotion was sealed on May 28 with the 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley.  June was a write off. A month of rumour and growing discontent at the lack of words or action coming out of the club. That wouldn’t change until pre-season training resumed in July and manager Steve Bruce broke the silence in several interviews with both the local media and the club’s in-house “press”. Bruce coined the phrase “Ask Ehab” to explain the lack of action – the phrase was ‘hashtagged’ and shared delightfully around City fans. That the highlight of the summer was embarrassing the odious Vice Chairman of Hull City did nothing to lift the low mood around the club.

In the wake of promotion, several out of contract players were released, loan players returned to their parent clubs and a couple of injuries hungover from the previous season. That left the manager well short of the 22 players he’d have liked to start the early pre-season games – meaning youngsters filled the gaps. When Moses Odubajo and Michael Dawson suffered injuries in friendlies against Grimsby and Mansfield respectively that would keep them out for at least a couple of months – it left 13 senior professionals available for outfield selection. I was at both of those friendly games and the sense of deflation was palpable.

Could things get any worse? You bet your life they could. On July 22nd – Steve Bruce walked. His working relationship with Allam Junior made his position untenable and he either walked or was pushed out. Regardless, our club had lost the best manager we’d ever had 22 days before the start of the season. It was a situation the owners had neglectfully allowed to happen. They were already widely and deservedly loathed for the failed attempt to change the club’s name and their new pricing structure which decreed children and OAPs would not be entitled to concessions, amongst other hideous actions. Now their footballing decisions were making a mockery of the club too.

And still, they weren’t finished. At the start of August Mo Diame, scorer of the winning goal at Wembley 2 months’ prior, was sold to Newcastle United. Diame had a release clause in his contract from the relegation a year earlier – the Allams didn’t think to offer him a new contract until the bid from Newcastle came in and good old #AskEhab didn’t even break from his holiday to meet and persuade Diame to stay. If you’ve not been counting – that left 12 fit senior pros to take on the Premier League.

Mike Phelan, who’d been Steve Bruce’s assistant manager, took over in a caretaker capacity and steadied things with his calm personality. He kept everyone’s focus on the upcoming matches while making it clear that he, or whomever would be the next manager, needed help from above and needed it quickly.

Amongst the doom, the drama and the desperation, Phelan’s band of 12 players and 2 goalkeepers turned over reigning Premier League Champions Leicester City on a glorious day at the KC Stadium. It was one of the best games and outcomes in City’s time at The Circle but the signs of toll the summer had taken on the fans were obvious – there were less than 18,000 home fans there to witness a magnificent victory.

Adama Diomande gave The Tigers the lead against the Champs with an audacious overhead kick, performed in unison with Abel Hernandez, just before half time. Leicester equalised from the penalty spot even though the foul by Tom Huddlestone had been committed outside the area (being on the wrong end of decisions would become a feature of the campaign) but Robert Snodgrass swept City into the lead again in the second half and we held on. 

Smoky celebrations at the Liberty Stadium as City upset the odds!

That unlikely victory was followed by another. A 2-0 win at Swansea with late goals from sub Shaun Maloney and Abel Hernandez. Such was the lack of depth in the squad, Maloney’s introduction was the only substitution made by Mike Phelan in the opening two league games. It was a tremendous, dogged performance by a group of players bound together by adversity. It was well worth the 500 mile round trip – much of it in torrential rain.

City sat top of the Premier League table after two games much to my enjoyment but general astonishment. But all was not suddenly rosy in the garden. Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer ripped the Allams a new arsehole for allowing the club to try and compete at the top level in such a hideous state.

The squad was still tiny and the fixture list looked cruel. But for a few days, at least, I walked around town with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. As did my fellow Tigers the world over.

Tranmere 0 Hull City 3: Short and sweet match report

City progressed in the League Cup on a first visit to Tranmere for 14 years since a Craig Fagan inspired win in League One en route to b...