Sunday, 9 June 2019

Hull City: Where on earth do we go from here?

Nigel Adkins will not be Hull City manager next season. After weeks of meetings with Assem and Ehab Allam, they were unable to convince him to stay and take on their bargain budget rebuild challenge.

Adkins is the third manager to walk out on the Allams in three years after Steve Bruce in 2016 and Marco Silva in 2017. In between, Mike Phelan and Leonid Slutsky were sacked after failing to work the same miracles as their counterparts amid the constant sale/release of key players, erratic last-minute recruitment strategy and continued fan unrest.

This summer promises to be the lowest point yet for a club that has been slowly dying since the minute Mo Diame’s goal went in at Wembley in the 2016 play-off final. With hindsight that may have been the worst possible outcome despite the elation of the moment. The Allams decided not to sell a club they freely admit to not wanting to own that summer and it’s been downhill ever since. The “preparations” for a fifth season in the Premier League were shambolic. And somehow every summer since has been worse. 2017 saw Leonid Slutsky fielding youth players in friendlies while suffering the embarrassment of seeing players sold from within his pre-season training camp. 2018 saw players walking out on vague contract offers because they’d rather be anywhere but Hull.

This will be the worst. We’ve already seen divisions in the fan base reopened by a ridiculous vote on “membership” options for next season. Rather than fix a scheme that has seen (real) attendances regularly fall below 10k, the club offered fans the chance to vote on two models. One being the current disastrous model and the other being a return to a concessions model with the caveat that fans relocated to the North Stand will have to move again.

And now Nigel Adkins has decided that his future will be better served elsewhere. And not a single fan can blame him. He wasn’t universally popular when he arrived in December 2017 and his ultra-positive personality grated on many, particularly during times of struggle. But last Autumn, his belief and confidence in his squad and his methods turned a side struggling against relegation to one challenging, fleetingly, for promotion. His team played attractive, positive football and while they came up short – expectedly after the poor starting position – his reputation has been restored.

Adkins was hugely successful at Scunthorpe and Southampton before spells at Reading and Sheffield United left him on the scrapheap. He was desperate to get back into management and desperate to work for Hull City and has ensured through his hard work in the face of adversity that his stock is high once again. He had the option to stay and work with the Allams’ reduced budget and non-existent ambition or to leave as a free-agent and gamble on a job coming along that suits him. It was a no-contest.

So where on earth do Hull City go next? 

Let’s not pretend that there won’t be applicants. In the same way there have always been players who want to play for our club, there’ll always be managers who see it as a step-up on whatever they are doing currently. But will any manager worth his salt fancy the challenge set by the Allams? The challenge of rebuilding a side without the likes of out of contract David Marshall, Evandro and key striker Fraizer Campbell and soon to be shorn of captain Markus Henriksen and flying winger Kamil Grosicki and star larker Jarrod Bowen on a fraction of the wage budget and with little of their transfer fees to reinvest.

While Nigel Adkins over-achieved in challenging for the play-offs last season, he did have key players through the spine of the team to work with. As well as Marshall in goal, Henriksen in midfield and a frightening triumvirate of forwards in Grosicki, Bowen and Campbell, he was able to sign Tommy Elphick for the heart of the defence. The difference in the team when just Elphick was missing for the second part of the season was obvious. The brains’ trust running City thought Liam Ridgewell was an appropriate replacement. That’s the frightening reality we are working with.

It’s impossible to be anything but hugely pessimistic for the season ahead. Off the field, the club claim to be interested in building bridges and a shiny new badge (with our name on it – shock!) was supposed to herald the start of that but the vote on memberships and upset caused over re-relocating the North Stand fans contradicts that completely.

On the pitch is anyone’s guess. Who knows who the Allams will find to replace Adkins. In their defence, they have generally made good managerial appointments. Even the ones that haven’t worked out have had more to do with their subsequent relationship than the actual appointment. And 18 months ago, no—one was excited at the prospect of Nigel Adkins. But regardless of the talent of the new man/men, they will be working with one hand behind their back.

Staying in the Championship next season will be a very good achievement.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Tigers Transfer Talk: Defenders Elphick, Clarke, Bauer and Lockyer linked with Hull City

It's been a busy week of Hull City news and rumours varying from the sublime to the ridiculous. Actually, most are just ridiculous...

Radio Humberside’s top man David Burns has "heard whispers" that City are in for Bristol Rovers centre half Tom Lockyer. The 24 year old has 5 Wales caps and is wanted by Portsmouth and Nottingham Forest according to rumours elsewhere. Perhaps unlikelier, Burns has also heard rumours of a move for former City youngster Jamie Devitt. The Irish winger, 28, was released in 2013 and is now at Carlisle. Burns says Grimsby Town are also interested locally.

According to Notts Live, Forest are interested in Kamil Grosicki at around £2.5m. It’s miraculous that Grosicki is still here given the numerous links with moves over the last three transfer windows but City are now keener than ever to shift his vast wage and he’d interest any team with ambition in the Championship. I think he could do better than that though.

Even in an era where Rob Green and Lee Grant get moves to Chelsea and Man Utd respectively (to play third choice keeper), Football Insider linking David Marshall with a move to Liverpool was a weird one. Marshall was a target for the reds back in 2014 but his stock has fallen somewhat since then. He had a reasonable season with City and is available for free but don’t hold your breath.

Two players who look unlikely to be heading to Hull are Oldham defender George Edmundson and Tranmere Rovers’ prolific striker James Norwood. Rangers have had two bids rejected for Edmundson who has now put in a transfer request to try and force through a move according to Sky Sports. Norwood hasn’t previously been linked but the East Anglian Daily Times say he’s agreed to join Ipswich Town at the end of his Tranmere contract amid interest from The Tigers and Swansea City.

Freelance journo Pete O'Rourke suggests City are one of a huge number of clubs after Charlton Athletic centre-half Patrick Bauer along with Preston, Blackburn, Wigan, QPR and Reading. The tall, 26 year old German has had three good seasons at Charlton in League One and scored the winner in the play-off final last weekend. He’d be an excellent free signing for someone.

Another big centre-half 22 year old Matthew Clarke of Portsmouth has also been linked by the Portsmouth News. However he would command a very good transfer fee and the competition is strong if rumoured interest from Brighton, Stoke, Leeds, Reading and Bristol City is accurate.

Former City loanee Tommy Elphick was released by Aston Villa this week. The 31 year old was a big hit at City before Villa recalled him in January and according to Hull Live City are watching his situation along with two other players who were on loan last season and are now free to find new clubs in Chelsea right back Todd Kane and Bournemouth winger Marc Pugh.

Some ex-Tiger news at different ends of the spectrum. Former City youngster Matthew Bowman who was released at his request to take up a scholarship has now completed his studies and has signed for Dunfermline in the Scottish Championship. He’ll be one to keep an eye out for.

Wales winger Harry Wilson, who joined City on loan in 2018, has decided to move on from Liverpool according to reports this week. The rumoured fee of £25m will ensure there is no link back to City but he won’t be short on offers with The Mirror claiming clubs from the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga want him while The Star name Crystal Palace, Newcastle, Southampton and Brighton as suitors. 

A list of all players linked in and out of Hull City so far can be found here

Phil Brown: Hull City's Mission Impossible

Ten years ago this week, Hull City parted company with Phil Brown. He was undoubtedly, to that point, the most successful manager in th...