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:


McKenzie – MacDonald – Curry – Fleming

Stewart – Sheaf

Milinkovic – Toral – Holmes


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.

Friday, 20 July 2018

An optimistic clairvoyant's Hull City Season Review 2018/19

Someone slipped a small tablet with the letters L, D and S on it into my beer last night and I woke up in June 2019. Here’s my review of Hull City’s season. SPOILER ALERT…

Friendly - England vs. Canada (May 2019)

Player of the season 2018/19

Of course it was Will “Keano” Keane. It’s amazing to look back now and think he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I’ve always rated the lad, personally. He was well out of the first team picture when he scored from 40 yards at Bramall Lane in the League Cup defeat and that put pressure on the manager to pick him.

Once he scored his first hat-trick of the season at Wigan, the confidence just flowed. There are too many highlights to pick out but the five goals he scored in that 12-0 drubbing of QPR in March will live long in the memory.

It would be remiss not to give lots of credit to the new owners for turning down that £30m bid from Liverpool in January. It would have been easy to take the money but he’s surely worth more now with the England call up and six years left on his new contract?

Game of the season 2018/19

I’ve still not recovered from the heart-break of missing out on the play-off final due to a disgraceful refereeing decision and the mis-fortune of having to finish the second-leg of the semi-final with only seven players due to injuries but it’s hard not to be proud of the players. We’d all written off the final anyway when we lost 2-0 to Nottingham Forest in the first leg but the return at the KCOM with 8,000 fans locked outside was something to behold.

We murdered them in the first half and deserved to lead 4-0 though Super Kev Stewart’s volley and the Keano hat-trick. The injuries began to bite though, especially once Markus Henriksen went in goal.

I still thought we were full value at 4-2 but the ref giving handball against Henriksen was a joke. I still don’t get how four officials couldn’t get between them that he was the goalie? This is why we need VAR in the Championship as soon as possible.

Goal of the season 2018/19

How is this even a question? I’m so glad I was at Carrow Road that night. Jarrod Bowen gets the ball near the corner flag in our right back position. We’re screaming at him to boot it away but he decides to take on his man. It’s madness. Who tries a 1-2 with the bloody corner flag? He beat that German kid and strode into their half. Yellow shirts were flying at him but he just kept going past  them.

The sub racing on to try and cut him down was out of order but fair play to the ref for allowing play on – same when that fat kid came out of the crowd and threw his hot dog at him. After all that, to have the composure to round the keeper 20 yards out and finish with a rabona on his wrong foot was quite something.

The old bloke behind me said he saw Waggy score ten better goals at Boothferry in the early 60s but I’m not so sure.

Best newcomer 2018/19

Despite David Milinkovic contributing 15 goals from the left wing in his debut season and George Long keeping those six clean sheets in a row following David Marshall’s unfortunate injury – I have to go for Adam Curry. I was as apprehensive as everyone else when three centre halves suffered injuries just after the close of the January transfer window but I had faith in thirty-something-twenty-something Curry stepping up from the U23 squad. However, his performances surpassed even my optimistic hopes and that bullet header to win the game at Derby live on Sky set him on the road to being a cult hero. Although it cost him a chance to play in the play-offs, that red card for head butting Tony Pulis cemented his cult status and I’m sure he’ll be a big player for us when he returns from his 16 match suspension next November.

Moment of the season 2018/19

The moment that saw the crowd flock back, the confidence return to the players and the computers finally get upgraded in the club shop. I still don’t know whether it was fate that took Adam Pearson and Bill Gates to the same hotel in Crete last October but I’m so glad it did. I’ve got to give Allam senior some credit too. After everything that’s gone on, Assem redeemed himself in my eyes by allowing Bill to fire Ehab out of a cannon into the North Sea. A perfect peace offering.

If you’d like to contribute to the “Search for Ehab” fund, the RNLI are collecting on Withernsea seafront all day, every day. It’s only been six months but they’ve already raised 87p.

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