Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Donny Rovers 3 Hull City 1


After missing Rochdale because I’m a fair weather supporter, we followed The Tigers to Doncaster for the latest pre-season friendly. I’ve never seen City win at Donny and have even witnessed a couple of humbling defeats. My last visit for a pre-season friendly saw Damien Delaney receive a serious looking head injury which caused him to leave the pitch in an ambulance. He turned out to be fine which hopefully will be a good omen for Ben Amos. The Manchester United goalkeeper only signed for the Tigers officially today but suffered an injury in trying to stop the second Doncaster goal and after a lengthy stoppage, left the pitch on a stretcher. Hopefully it was precautionary but it didn’t look good.



The Tigers squad included ex-Norwich City and Celtic midfielder Mark Fotheringham playing as a trialist. Robert Koren and James Chester were missing, presumably rested, Abdoulaye Faye is still not fit to play and Matt Fryatt, Seyi Olofinjana, Liam Rosenior and Corry Evans are injured. Paul McShane has vanished. All that left the squad looking a little depleted. Steve Bruce decided to experiment with one up front. I’m not sure of the reason and it certainly goes against his previous comments. It wasn’t an experiment that worked very well.  (YouTube: Tigers warm-up)

Tigers: Amos; Dudgeon, Dawson, Bruce, Cooper; Aluko, Stewart, McKenna, Cairney, Fotheringham; Proschwitz.

City started the game very brightly and scored a deserved early goal. We moved the ball around neatly, Stewart and Aluko looked lively and we looked a threat for 15 minutes or so. Sone Aluko had already scraped the post with a deflected low shot when the Tigers went in front. Cairney skipped through the midfield and played the ball into the path of Stewart who’d switched to the right. He put a decent low ball into the box and Rob Jones, making his Donny debut, smacked it into his own net. It was so ridiculous, I thought it must have been Cairney who’d got on the end of it but it wasn’t [0-1]. The lead should have been doubled minutes later when Sone Aluko tricked a foul out of Husband in the box. Tom Cairney strode up to take the penalty and smashed the underside of the crossbar.

The Tigers dominated possession until half time but looked far less threatening after the penalty miss. Doncaster threatened when Robbie Blake latched onto an under-hit back pass before Liam Copper tackled him superbly while a free-kick floated to the back post almost caught out Ben Amos. He watched it well though and got down to make the save but couldn’t hold on to the ball and was perhaps a little relieved that Rob Jones clattered into him as he tried to retrieve the situation. At the other end Fotheringham nicked the ball in midfield and fed Proschwitz who got his left foot shot away but saw it blocked by a sliding Donny defender. It was a comfortable half for City with only the lively but unproductive Kyle Bennett causing any trouble. Proschwitz’ lack of involvement was worrying with City failing struggling to get anything into him and his involvement reduced to challenging in the air for poor balls out of defence (and losing).

City never really got going in a disjointed second half. Until the Doncaster equaliser, the Tigers dominated the ball again without creating a whole lot but once they scored, confidence flooded through the hosts and that combined with Hull City looking weaker with each substitution meant the outcome was inevitable. Paul McKenna won a free-kick which Nick Proschwitz put into orbit (YouTube: Proschwitz free kick) and then a lovely City move ended with Fotheringham dinking the ball in behind the right-back for Andy Dawson to charge onto and lash in a half volley that the keeper tipped over the bar. That was probably the visitor’s last chance of the game.

Doncaster equalised through Martin Woods who cut in from their right and hit a terrific left footed shot inside Ben Amos’ left hand post. It was woeful defending though. From the second Woods picked up the ball it was clear that he wanted to get the shot in and one after another the City defenders showed him further inside [1-1]. Aaron McLean and Jay Simpson (not Jamie Devitt Mr Stadium announcer) replaced Aluko and Stewart. Stewart had another quiet game but Aluko was impressive. He’s got plenty of pace, he moves well with the ball, he’s direct and he loves a shot. He’ll be a big favourite at the KC. The Tigers shape didn’t change which meant Proschwitz continued to plough a lonely furrow. Sonny Bradley replaced Alex Bruce but not before Bruce stuck a foot out at a Bennett cross to force a phenomenal save from Amos. Once Bruce went off, Donny really took control and Bradley, who I’m a big fan of, was dragged all over the place. We were ragged at the back and a second goal was inevitable. Kyle Bennett, who was just as lively in the second half but twice as effective, ran through the midfield (minus McKenna who’d swapped with Devitt) and slid the ball in to Hawley whose shot was saved by Amos only for Morgan-Smith to knock in the rebound [1-2]. Amos was injured while trying to reach the rebound and had to be replaced by Eldin Jakupovic.

Cullen and Townsend replaced Proschwitz and Dawson either side of Doncaster’s third goal. Bradley got himself the wrong side of Bennett but looked to have made a decent recovery tackle only for Michael Oliver to point to the spot. I think the linesman gave it and in a competitive match, Bradley would have walked. Woods did what Tom Cairney couldn’t in the first half and sealed a decent win for a patched up Donny [1-3]. On the final whistle a couple of people in the City end booed. Hello? It’s a friendly.

I’m not sure what Steve Bruce will take from the game. It wasn’t the sort of controlled 4-5-1 that Pearson and Barmby used to good effect last season; this was a poor 4-5-1 with the front man an isolated and frustrated figure. Rather than bringing a freshness to the team, each substitution made us weaker and weaker. Ben Amos had a good game in goal and I hope he recovers quickly from his injury. Dawson, Dudgeon, McKenna, Cairney and Stewart all gave their usual performance which is a positive for some but not others. Fotheringham was tidy and played one or two really good balls but isn’t any better than what we currently have and isn’t anywhere near good enough to replace Robert Koren if he decides to leave. Alex Bruce did well at centre half and although he lacks a bit of pace, did get himself into the right positions to avert danger. Liam Cooper had a fine defensive game but his distribution was wretched. He isn’t going to get a game ahead of Chester, Hobbs or Faye this season so hopefully the arrival of Bruce will allow Liam to go out and play a full season somewhere. He really needs the games because he continues to show real promise. I think Doncaster would be the perfect temporary home for him next season.

I’m not too worried about the performance as it is only pre-season and this was an experimental line-up. I’m worried by the number of injuries we’re picking up all of a sudden. Apart from long-term injuries to players prone to damage, we were lucky with injuries until March 2012 and since then we’ve had a run of niggly knocks. We had a settled side for most of last season but more injuries will lead to a high turnover of players and we may well suffer for it this season. I’m also a tad worried that we’re looking at guys like Mark Fotheringham who is a journeyman who never made the best of enormous talent when he had the chance and now never will.

The Tigers head to Hartlepool next. I’ll see them again against Norwich. If the likes of Rosenior and Fryatt aren’t back in action for that one, I’m going to get a little twitchy!

Please feel free to leave a comment. Google account is not necessary.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Grimsby Town 0 Hull City 0


The Tigers second trip over the Humber Bridge this week proved to be far less enjoyable than the first. It was the first time I’ve been to Blundell Park to see City. The last time I went I saw Grimsby play Sunderland and lose 0-4. A young Michael Bridges scored a hat-trick for a Sunderland side who were marching towards promotion. We arrived just in time for kick-off, i.e. literally with seconds to spare, and found the away end was playing host to a high-school production of Green Street. Credit to the costume lady, she’d done a great job sourcing all that knock-off Burberry on her budget.

I thought the police did a good job with the situation. They were present but restrained. If this lot had been at the G20 demonstrations, they’d be missing some teeth by now. Anyway, the football. With Amos, Hobbs, Rosenior, Dawson, McKenna, Olofinjana, Fryatt and new signing Abdoulaye Faye unavailable, the Tigers fielded about the best senior side they could manage:

Jakupovic; McShane, Dudgeon,   Chester, Cooper; Stewart, Devitt, Cairney, Koren ©; McLean, Simpson

With substitutions taking place throughout the second half (all subs used except Oxley) City finished the game :

Jakupovic; East, Townsend, Chester, Cooper; Bradley (for 30 seconds), McLean, Cairney, Koren; Cullen, Proschwitz



The first half was a bit of a non-event. There was some tidy football on display from both sides but chances were few and far between. City lacked any real penetration and failed to deliver from wide areas despite numerous chances. If it was up to the duo in the centre of midfield to dictate the tempo then it was hardly surprising that the Tigers game was slow and steady given that Cairney and Koren are both paid up members of the “pipe and slippers” club. No-one in black and amber appeared too keen to pick up an injury so the defensive tactic was press Grimsby until they cough up possession and start again which was reasonably effective.

The Mariners only chance of the half fell to Andy Cook who met Joe Colbeck’s cross but saw his header comfortably saved by Jakupovic. Colbeck was impressive for Grimsby and gave Joe Dudgeon something to think about the few times he was in possession. Despite having the larger share of possession and working the ball into good areas, City failed to create much more than a few half chances. Jay Simpson hit the side netting early on after latching onto Koren’s neat pass. Jamie Devitt hit a nice half-volley low and hard but saw it saved excellently by ‘keeper Fleming. Liam Cooper met a Koren corner with a super near post run but headed over. In the only moment of genuine quality in the half, Koren hit a terrific swerving, dipping shot from 25 yards that smashed the bar and flew over.

Jay Simpson showed good movement and pace again, Koren worked hard and was involved in the few moments of quality and the centre halves were untroubled. The rest of the outfield players were well below par. McLean was anonymous, Stewart is still struggling and hardly anything he tried came off. Devitt is what he is, Cairney looks good but doesn’t affect games enough and neither full-back ever looked likely to put a decent ball into the box.

Things improved a little after the break with the spate of substitutions at least bringing a little urgency into the Tigers play. We dominated for the most part but Grimsby had a good spell mid-way through the half and were unlucky not to score when Southwell met a good out-swinging corner and saw his header cleared off the line. The corner came about from Jakupovic coming for a ball he couldn’t get for the second time in the game. Half-time sub Conor Townsend impressed again. His movement is good, he looks for space and he loves to try and get a cross in. They weren’t really up to much but at least he’s trying. Jay Simpson forced a good save  from Fleming after collecting Cairney’s pass, turning sharply and shooting low and hard. Fleming is on trial at Grimsby and played against The Tigers in pre-season last year for Chesterfield. He had a really good game.

Cameron Stewart’s best moment of the half came next, he picked up the ball in his own half and ran 40 yards with it, out pacing two midfielders and leaving just Southwell between him and a run on goal. Southwell came across and blatantly took him out earning a bollocking from the referee and a few words from a rightly upset Stewart who could do without another injury. Simpson then went clean through against Fleming, drew the keeper and neatly dinked the ball over him. Unfortunately the dink had no power behind it whatsoever and three defenders beat the ball to the 6 yard line!

With about 15 minutes left Steve Bruce threw on Nick Proschwitz for his Tigers debut. The big German received a great welcome from the 600 or so City fans behind the goal he was attacking. He also heard his first chant in English football which was made up by a tuneless moron and sung by about 1% of the crowd, and half of them looked pretty embarrassed. The words to this future pop classic are:

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!! NICK PROSCHWITZ.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!! NICK PROSCHWITZ.”

I think perhaps the teeny-boppers should stick to amateur dramatics and leave the song writing to someone else? Oddly, that wasn’t even their worst song of the night. The other one was so horrific that my brain has refused to absorb it. Thank you brain.

It’s unfair to judge anyone on just 15 minutes but I think it’s safe to say that had Proschwitz been a donkey, 15 minutes would have been long enough to prove it. Fortunately, he looks a pretty good footballer. He didn’t have many touches but all were very good, he showed neat control, good movement and wasn’t afraid to have a shot. There were no further chances for City but may have been a penalty when Cameron Stewart was brought down on the edge of the box. It looked in to me and Stewart also thought it was but the ref, from a pretty poor position, said it was outside. Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter.

The game ended all square. It wasn’t particularly riveting but should be a decent boost to the home side who put up a good fight and look to have assembled a decent squad. It will also benefit them financially as all of the proceeds will go to their youth setup. It’s just a pity there weren’t more than 1500 of them to boost the coffers.

The game doesn’t tell us a whole lot about Hull City that we didn’t already know. Jay Simpson continued his decent pre-season. He definitely looks higher up the pecking order than Aaron McLean at the moment. We still can’t put a decent cross into the box and our set pieces are rubbish. It’s not a surprise that wide players are high on Steve Bruce’s agenda. If Robert Koren is looking to leave, this was a thoroughly professional performance.

I’m off to change my name to Danny Dyer by deed poll. A’wight.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Wanna be a Tiger? #2


A second look at some of the names being linked with a move to Hull City in the summer transfer window. Some are credible, some are not.

In updates from the first instalment The Tigers signed up German Striker Nick Proschwitz and will complete a loan move for Manchester United goalkeeper Ben Amos when he returns from their pre-season tour.
 
Brad Guzan re-signed at Aston Villa for three years while tenuously linked drugs cheat Paddy Kenny joined Leeds United. Following the signings of Amos and Eldin Jakupovic, Vito Mannone is no longer a target. Another rumoured target definitely not signing is Paul Coutts who has joined Derby County.

Before we get onto the rumours, it’s time for a one off special called…

PLEASE SAY YOU STILL WANNA BE A TIGER OR I’LL CRY!

Robert Koren (Midfelder)

The former captain of the Slovenian National team miraculously joined the Tigers in the summer of 2010 after being released by West Bromwich Albion. Quite how Nigel Pearson managed to attract Koren at a time when the club’s finances were dire, half the squad were let go and the other half would have been let go if anyone wanted them and the quality of our signings were limited to the likes of James Harper and Nolberto Solano, I’ll never know.

Koren did sign though and proved to be a crucial player once he bedded in playing initially from the left of midfield and then eventually behind the striker as the team was built around him. He chipped in with ten goals from midfield including crucial late winners against Watford and Leicester City. Koren’s importance to the Tigers was still up for debate until his late-season injury coincided with an abysmal run of form that cost City a play-off place. The choice of words is poor; it was no coincidence.

We initially feared that Koren’s contract was up this summer but it transpired that the Tigers had an option to extend it for a further year. What we didn’t know for sure until today s that his contract has a release clause of around half a million pounds that allows Koren to leave. He has several rumoured suitors including Premier League new boys Reading and Nigel Pearson’s Leicester City. Steve Bruce revealed earlier this week that he’s attempting to convince Koren to sign a new contract. The reasons for that are now obvious.

Losing Robert Koren could be catastrophic for Hull City. I’m not even sure where he fits into the team for the new season, with Steve Bruce likely to prefer a 4-4-2 system over his predecessor’s choice of playing one man up front with Koren behind. What I’m certain of is that whether it’s in the centre of midfield, as a second striker or (most likely) as a wide player, Steve Bruce would find a place for Koren because he’s a difference maker. I’m also certain that Leicester City with Robert Koren immediately make the jump from underachieving over-spenders to a team that will win promotion.

It will take three things to keep Robert Koren at Hull City. The first is a lack of interest from a Premier League. At his age, he can’t afford to turn down a guaranteed chance to play in the top flight again. The second is for the manager and the owner to convince him through their words and actions that the club are serious about winning promotion again. The third is money. City would have to match the money Koren could earn at Leicester City. This is where I have a dilemma. Over the past 18 months, the club has been run properly. The squad is made up of players who are on the way up. They respect each other, they work for each other and they know that they’re all valued the same and paid accordingly (apart from the leeches the Allams inherited). I’m not sure that the club should be ripping up that structure for Robert Koren or anyone else.

Reading Steve Bruce's interviews in the last day or two, I get the feeling that he isn't too hopeful. I think that if he felt Koren was going to sign a new contract, he would have kept it to himself but as that is looking unlikely he's made it the public. That said, Bruce may well just be sticking to his word and being open and honest with the supporters.

Ahmed Elmohamady (Winger)


The 24 year old Egyptian winger joined Sunderland from ENPPI in his home country last summer after a successful loan spell. Steve Bruce was the Sunderland manager who took him to the Stadium of Light for a fee of £2m. He can play anywhere on the right hand side, has good pace and crosses the ball well. “Elmo” has already won over 40 caps for Egypt. He has failed to hold down a regular spot at Sunderland under Martin O’Neill and Steve Bruce has confirmed his interest in taking. Sunderland would want at a seven figure fee to let him go permanently so a loan might suit City.

Credibility? Confirmed.
Likelihood? Only a possibility, he’s bound to have other offers.

David Meyler (Midfielder)

Young Irish midfielder whose career has been blighted by two cruciate knee ligament injuries, one fortunately less serious than the first. Roy Keane took him to Sunderland from his hometown club, Cork City, for £250,000. He’s been limited to just a handful of appearances for Sunderland which is a shame for such a talented player. It’s likely that Sunderland will send him out on loan to get games under his belt an Steve Bruce, who gave him his break at Sunderland, is very interested.

Credibility? Confirmed.
Likelihood? This one is a strong possibility.

Abdoulaye Faye (Defender)

Vastly experienced Seneglaese international defender is looking for his fifth club in England after his release by West Ham. The Hammers were the third club he’s played for under Sam Allardyce along with Bolton and Newcastle United. Faye also played an important part in establishing Stoke City in the Premier League, one of several astute signings by Tony Pulis. Despite being 34 years old, Faye s still fit and mobile and would give the Tigers an aerial presence that was missing at times last season as well as adding a bit of know how to some of the youthful quality we already have.

Credibility? Confirmed.
Likelihood? He’s had a medical and agreed terms. This one looks a go-er.

Ricardo Fuller (Striker)

Mobile, powerful and skilful Jamaican front man who’s spent most of his career in England. Suffered two serious knee injuries which mean he’ll never pass a medical and have probably stopped bigger clubs looking at him. Portsmouth eventually took a chance on him, one of Harry “Delboy” Redknapp’s deals, because of his goal return at Preston but he struggled at Pompey. Had a slightly better spell after following Redknapp to Southampton (for less than a tenth of the fee Pompey paid for him) and finally settled at Stoke where he won promotion to the Premier League and helped the club stay in the top flight three seasons in a row. In fact, Stoke looked certainties for relegation in their first PL season until Fuller gave Andy Griffin a slap against West Ham and it turned around their season. Or perhaps that was a coincidence.

Credibility? Already denied by Steve Bruce.
Likelihood? Highly improbable unless Steve Bruce is attempting to put us off the scent.

Paul Anderson (Winger)

A bright young winger available on a free transfer after seeing out his contract at Nottingham Forest. He was previously on the books at the KC Stadium after being released as a junior by Leicester. He left City in 2005 to join Liverpool in a swap deal for England U21 international John Welsh. Never threatened to break through at Anfield and after productive loan spells at Swansea and Forest, he moved to Nottingham permanently for £250,000. Anderson is a good footballer who has Championship pedigree but struggled for form and fitness last season. 

Credibility? Rumour denied by Steve Bruce.
Likelihood? Not going to happen.

Alex Bruce (Defender)

The Manager’s son is available on a free transfer after being released by Leeds United. He joined the Tigers on their training camp in Portugal and has made appearances in the opening pair of pre-season friendlies. While City are short on experienced defensive cover, there are better defenders available. Steve Bruce has said he’s wary of being accused of nepotism but it’s hard to see any other reason why City would take on Bruce Jr.


Credibility? He’s worn the kit!
Likelihood? A definite possibility.

Update...

Sone Aluko (Winger)

Another young English winger of Nigerian descent who has a single cap for the Super Eagles. Aluko came through the youth system of Birmingham City (where he was managed by one Steve Bruce) before joining Aberdeen, initially on loan. He impressed in the SPL for the Dons and was snapped up by Rangers at the end of his contract last summer. His impressive form continued at the declining Glasgow giants and he proved to be the shining light in a disastrous season. His brilliant individual goal in a 3-2 derby win over Celtic at Ibrox will go down in history as being the last great moment for the "old" Rangers. After Rangers liquidation, Aluko refused to transfer his registration to the new company and left as a free agent. Any signing will be the subject of some debate as the Scottish FA have so far refused to sanction the transfer of the registration of ex-Rangers players such as the three Stevens, Whittaker, Naismith and Davis.


Credibility? Do you believe the Hull Daily Mail?
Likelihood? As likely as Nigel Pearson trying to poach Robert Koren :(

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Winterton Rangers 0 Hull City 5


The Tigers headed across the Humber Bridge for the first time this week to Winterton whose West Street ground has become a regular fixture in City’s pre-season preparations. It’s a nice ground to visit offering a view of the Humber Bridge from the best angle (the one that faces home), Burgers cooked on a proper grill and the chance to see the superstars in Black and Amber up close. Ahem.

Steve Bruce’s promise that most players would get around 60 minutes under their belt suggested a change in the line-up from Ferriby and we arrived to find 10 players warming up with Stephen Clemence while most of the team from the night before wandered around gently on the far side suggesting this was the line-up. Eldin Jakupovic faced the pre-match shooting practice in another role reversal from Monday.

The big excitement in the warm-up was spotting two “continental” looking players whom we guessed were probably the two Greek trialists. Conor Townsend confirmed it but had no idea what their names were. 



City lined up in a traditional 4-4-2: Oxley; East, Townsend, Bruce, Bradley; Koutsianikoulis, Devitt, Olofinjana, Lambropoulos; Simpson, Cullen

The Tigers midfield was a winner on the Scrabble board at least. It was a different City side in the performance as well as the personnel. They settled quicker than on Monday, seemed to enjoy playing on the slick pitch and were generally untroubled. It has to be said that Winterton were very poor. They usually give the Tigers a better game than Ferriby despite being lower on the non-league ladder but tonight they looked like a team at their level. City bossed the game completely with Winterton barely managing a shot. If not for the Winterton ‘keeper and the centre half wearing number 6 throwing himself at shots, the score-line would easily have run into double figures.

City settled quickly. Jay Simpson looked lively again after impressing in his short stint at Ferriby and Cullen and Devitt tested the ‘keeper early before Simpson ran through two defenders and rounded the goalie but was slow to shoot and the number six took the ball off his toe. The tiny Greek winger Koutsianikoulis looked edgy early on but his fellow trialist in midfield settled well and passed the ball neatly. The first half was all about Jay Simpson though. He ran the right channel and cut the ball back for Devitt who shot weakly before opening the scoring himself with a low left footed finish after a neat turn [0-1]. He then beautifully flicked Devitt’s pass into Lambropoulos’ path and he burst into the box but suffered a nosebleed and shot wide.

Simpson added a second goal when latching onto a pass from Koutsianikoulis, who was growing into the game, and rounding the goalkeeper before sliding into the empty net [0-2]. Simpson then held up Townsend’s ball out of defence, slid in Koutsianikoulis and he turned the defender inside out and crossed nicely from the left for Cullen whose header clipped the bar. Simpson then completed an impressive half’s work by picking up the ball 30 yards out, stepping forward unchallenged and lashing a terrific shot into the bottom left hand corner [0-3]. Most of the Tigers made it to half time without breaking a sweat but Lambropoulos looked like he was feeling it a little.

The second half was disjointed with numerous substitutions ruining any flow as is often the case. Regardless City continued to dominate and but for poor finishing and decent keeping, could have made it uncomfortable for the home side. Olofinjana sprayed a lovely ball wide to free Koutsianikoulis who had a clear run on goal but looked hesitant and poked a shot at the ‘keeper. Lambropoulos then picked up Cullen’s header and carried the ball across before sliding in Devitt who’s effort shot just wide of the far post. Devitt did help himself to City’s fourth firing in right-footed after Danny East’s low cross evaded everyone in the penalty area [0-4].

The fourth goal came in between a raft of substitutions which left The Tigers lined up with:

Oxley; McShane, Townsend, Bradley, Cooper; East, Stewart, Koren, Chester; Fryatt, McLean

The brave ‘keeper and centre half worked tirelessly against the fresh legs to keep the score respectable but got a little lucky as McLean, East (twice), Bradley, Fryatt and Stewart all missed chances. It was left to Fryatt to round off the scoring by pouncing on a loose ball after the ‘keeper spilled McLean’s powerful header [0-5].

It wasn’t much of a test for City but will have felt like a worthwhile exercise as everyone looked a little looser and played with a touch more freedom while lots of fringe players got plenty of game time. Jay Simpson was the obvious stand out performer and deserves his plaudits tonight but we all need to remember the quality (or lack of) of the opposition before getting carried away. Poor old Mark Oxley has waited a long time for a game in (vividly bright) City shirt and then barely touched the ball. I think he made one very comfortable save and took a couple of back passes.

Sonny Bradley impressed again. Almost everyone who has come through City’s academy in the past 10 years has been tiny, often in both height and width. They’ve obviously added Miracle Gro (other plant foods are available) to his Weetabix for the past few years. Bradley, East and Townsend all need to get out on loan for the coming season. They are all good footballers who will benefit from the game time. I feel like I’ve said this a lot in recent years but I really think Cullen needs to join them. He’s not a bad player but he just doesn’t look like making it here. If he goes out somewhere and starts scoring goals again, he might have a chance.

Olofinjana is as deeply frustrating as ever. He can carry the ball with poise one second and give it away cheaply the next. He just isn’t a holding midfielder though and never will be. He’s pointless in the role he played tonight. We’ve learnt nothing about Alex Bruce on this evidence.

That just leaves the two Greeks. Vasilis Koutsianikoulis is a tiny little winger who played on the rght but is left footed. Once he got into the game he showed he’s got some pace and runs nicely off the ball attacking space. He’s very lightweight and not quite as quick as has been rumoured. He crossed the ball well and took a few decent corners. Overall he didn’t impress me as much as Jerome Thomas did at Winterton a few years ago. Andreas Lambropoulos was a tidy midfield player. Technically he was good and despite blowing a little, he found enough about him to keep affecting the game in the second half. He wasn’t as good as Tom Cairney or Corry Evans so I can’t see him earning a permanent deal. I think he could play in England though, he looked tough enough and mobile enough. Perhaps we’ll see more of them on Friday to judge against marginally better opposition.


Nick Proschwitz was in attendance as promised. He’s certainly a big lad! The deal should be done tomorrow. He’s another I hope we get to see on Friday.

League Of Nations

The impending arrival of Nick Proschwitz, Hull City's first German player, got me thinking about how many different nations have been represented in Black and Amber over the years. Using the 209 FIFA members as a guide, I started to make a list. Place of Birth or International representation counted as criteria. I got to 42. It's now up to 48 with help from the Tiger Nation.

2013 update: Maynor Figueroa makes 49!
2016 update: Croatia, DR Congo, Uruguay and Solvakia make 53!

Algeria - Kamel Ghilas
Angola - Rui Marques, ManuchoArgentina - Adrian Caceres
Antigua and Barbuda - Marc Joseph, Calaum Jahraldo-Martin
Australia - Jason Van Blerk, Richard Garcia
Austria - Martin Pusic
Bermuda - Kyle Lightbourne
Bosnia-Herzegovina - Eldin Jakupović
Brazil - Geovanni, Adriano Basso
Canada - Patrick Dickinson
Cayman Islands - Jamie Wood
Côte d'Ivoire - Yann Ekra, Yannick Sagbo
Croatia - Nikica Jelavic
Denmark - Viggo Jensen, Henrik Pedersen
DR Congo - Dieumerci Mbokani
Egypt - Amr Zaki, Gedo, Ahmed Fathi
England - Raich Carter, Ken Wagstaff, Dean Windass
Faroe Islands - Julian Johnsson
Finland - Mauno Rintanen
France - Bernard Mendy
Gabon - Daniel Cousin
Germany - Nick Proschwitz
Greece - Stelios Giannakopoulos
Grenada - Delroy Facey
Guinea - Kamil Zayatte
Guyana - Leon Cort
Honduras - Maynor Figueroa
Hungary - Peter Halmosi, Peter Gulacsi
India - Paddy Mills
Italy - Vito Mannone
Jamaica - Theo Whitmore, Ian Goodison, Marlon King
Netherlands - Richard Sneekes, George Boateng, Jan Venegoor Of Hesslink
New Zealand - Heremaia Ngata
Nigeria - Jay-Jay Okocha, Seyi Olofinjana
Northern Ireland - Alan Fettis, Roy Carroll, Stuart Elliott
Norway - Joshua King, Adama Diomande
Peru - Nolberto Solano
Portugal - Sergio Leite, Ricardo Vaz Te
Republic of Ireland - Ken De Mange, Caleb Folan, Paul McShane
Scotland - Ian McKechnie, Paul Hunter, Robert Snodgrass
Senegal - Ibrahima Sonko, Mo Diame
Seychelles - Kevin Betsy
Slovakia - Dusan Kuciak
Slovenia - Robert Koren
South Africa - George Wienand (?)
Spain - Antonio Doncel, Daniel Ayala
St. Kitts and Nevis - Kevin Francis
St. Lucia - Colin Alcide
Switzerland - Eldin Jakupović
Trinidad and Tobago - Clint Marcelle, Tony Warner
Tunisia - Tijani Belaid
Uruguay - Abel Hernandez
USA - Jozy Altidore, Brad Guzan
Wales - Boaz Myhill
Zambia - Iain Hesford

League Of Nations

The impending arrival of Nick Proschwitz, Hull City's first German player, got me thinking about how many different nations have been represented in Black and Amber over the years. Using the 209 FIFA members as a guide, I started to make a list. Place of Birth or International representation counted as criteria. I got to 42. It's now up to 48 with help from the Tiger Nation.

2016 update: 56!

Algeria - Kamel Ghilas
Angola - Rui Marques, Manucho
Argentina - Adrian Caceres
Antigua and Barbuda - Marc Joseph, Calaum Jahraldo-Martin
Australia - Jason Van Blerk, Richard Garcia
Austria - Martin Pusic
Bermuda - Kyle Lightbourne
Bosnia-Herzegovina - Eldin Jakupović
Brazil - Geovanni, Adriano Basso
Canada - Patrick Dickinson
Cayman Islands - Jamie Wood
Congo DR - Dieumerci Mbokani
Côte d'Ivoire - Yann Ekra, Yannick Sagbo
Croatia - Nikica Jelavic
Denmark - Viggo Jensen, Henrik Pedersen
Egypt - Amr Zaki, Gedo, Ahmed FathiEngland - Raich Carter, Ken Wagstaff, Dean Windass
Faroe Islands - Julian Johnsson
Finland - Mauno Rintanen
France - Bernard Mendy
Gabon - Daniel Cousin
Germany - Nick Proschwitz
Gibraltar - Scott Wiseman
Greece - Stelios Giannakopoulos
Grenada - Delroy Facey
Guinea - Kamil Zayatte
Guyana - Leon Cort
Honduras - Maynor Figueroa
Hungary - Peter Halmosi, Peter Gulacsi
India - Paddy Mills
Italy - Vito Mannone
Jamaica - Theo Whitmore, Ian Goodison, Marlon King
Netherlands - Richard Sneekes, George Boateng, Jan Venegoor Of Hesslink
New Zealand - Heremaia Ngata
Nigeria - Jay-Jay Okocha, Seyi Olofinjana
Northern Ireland - Alan Fettis, Roy Carroll, Stuart Elliott
Norway - Joshua King, Adama Diomande
Peru - Nolberto Solano
Portugal - Sergio Leite, Ricardo Vaz Te
Republic of Ireland - Ken De Mange, Caleb Folan, Paul McShane
Scotland - Ian McKechnie, Paul Hunter, Robert Snodgrass
Senegal - Ibrahima Sonko, Mo Diame
Seychelles - Kevin Betsy
Slovakia - Dusan Kuciak
Slovenia - Robert Koren
South Africa - George Wienand (?)
Spain - Antonio Doncel, Daniel Ayala
St. Kitts and Nevis - Kevin Francis
St. Lucia - Colin Alcide
Switzerland - Eldin Jakupović
Trinidad and Tobago - Clint Marcelle, Tony Warner
Tunisia - Tijani Belaid
Uruguay - Abel Hernandez
USA - Jozy Altidore, Brad Guzan
Wales - Boaz Myhill
Zambia - Iain Hesford

Monday, 16 July 2012

North Ferriby United 1 Hull City 3


Often pre-season friendlies end a long football-less summer but despite the fact that Hull City haven’t played for 79 days, this years have come around quickly. In part due to the excellent European Championships and in part due to the fiasco of a management situation, football and Hull City have been at the forefront of our thinking for most of those 79 days.

Often pre-season friendlies raise excitement at the thought of seeing a raft of summer signings or trialists but this year’s arrived with The Tigers having made just one signing. While the only trialist on display was the new manager’s son who has just been released by L**ds United.

Often pre-season friendlies are dour fitness exercises featuring players who are easing themselves back into football after a break and who are keen not to pick up injuries before the real stuff starts. Unfortunately, this one proved to be true. The only real plus point from the evening being that despite the sky changing from blue to grey to black to pink, it didn’t rain.
 
Steve Bruce chose to watch his first match in charge of Hull City from the touchline. Ordinarily the manager watches the Ferriby friendly from the stands but Bruce was on the line in his tracksuit keeping a close eye on things. The team was a familiar one:

Jakupovic; McShane, Dudgeon, Chester, Cooper; Cairney, Evans, Koren, Stewart; McLean, Fryatt.


Working out the formation was a conundrum. Cameron Stewart played as an out-and-out right winger, Koren played behind McLean and Fryatt and Cairney and Evans played in the middle. Joe Dudgeon patrolled the whole left flank. Andy Dawson, Paul McKenna, Liam Rosenior and Jack Hobbs watched from the clubhouse roof while the rest of the senior squad were subs, along with Alex Bruce. I’m not sure if he counts as a trialist or if we’re genuinely just doing him a favour but if you were at Church Road tonight then you’ve seen him turn out for Hull City.

The first half was pretty dire, even by pre-season standards. The Tigers failed to create anything resembling a good opportunity for half an hour. McLean, Koren and Dudgeon all shot wide with pot shots, Dudge coming the closest hitting the side netting. Dudgeon was probably the pick of the players in the first half, proving to be a good outlet on the left hand side and putting in his usual tireless shift. Most of the others looked rusty with a high rate of hefty touches and sloppy passes. The major excitement of the half came from a Ferriby corner. Jakupovic ventured into the crowd, tried to punch but diverted the ball backwards where Gary Bradshaw, sharp as ever, headed goal-wards but found James Chester guarding the line. Bradshaw hit a tremendous dipping volley in the first half and a super left-footed drive in the second which fell a couple of feet high and wide respectively. He’s been a terrific servant to North Ferriby but his football career has been a massive waste overall.

The Tigers had a couple of minor scares as Chester and Cairney stayed down after heavy clashes but everyone else reached half time in good shape. Just before the break Fryatt missed the best City chance of the half when he latched onto a smart Koren flick and then held onto the ball too long allowing Pecora to smother. We’ve seen that one before. The half time entertainment was provided by Alex Bruce’s girlfriend. Thank heavens for mobile internet.

Olofinjana replaced Evans at half time. Perhaps precautionary? Oily doesn’t change. His style’s languid, his best touches are impressive and the rest are unimpressive. Ferriby took the lead soon after. I’m not linking the two events but you can if you wish. Jack Muldoon, who scored on his debut against Barton Town at the weekend, pounced on a loose ball in the penalty box [1-0]. In a competitive game you’d say it was exactly what the Tigers deserved.

Slightly embarrassed by conceding, City stepped up a gear. Matt Fryatt raced clear and lifted the ball over Pecora and also the crossbar. Shortly after a neat move released Stewart on the right, he delivered by far the best cross he’s ever put in for the Tigers and Aaron McLean rose to head home powerfully from close range at the near post [1-1]. Stewart had a quiet game, as he often did after Xmas last season, but I’d take a quiet 89 minutes if he delivers with this quality.

Alex Bruce and Jay Simpson replaced Liam Cooper and Robert Koren. Simpson looked lively and ran in behind on the left, giving Ferriby something to think about. I’m not convinced Alex Bruce touched the ball. Danny East then replaced Paul McShane whose final act was to hit a ferocious shot inches over from a cleared City corner. McShane has grown his hair out and is sporting a Patrick Berger hair band. He looks a right pillock. Well more of a pillock than usual.

Friendly games usually lose their rhythm with a raft of second half substitutes (Bradley on for Chester next) but this one had been so dull that it actually improved and as Ferriby tired, City took control. Fryatt danced into the penalty area and was tripped. He got up and tucked away the penalty himself (See Video), despite Tom Cairney getting ideas above his station [1-2]. It was to be his last kick as he left the field for Cullen. Conor Townsend, loaned out to Grimsby Town last season, replaced McLean as the last change. City attacked at will in the last quarter of an hour and Pecora pushed Simpson’s shot onto the bar and Cullen hit a post either side of the Tigers’ third goal. Cairney, who slid in Simpson earlier with a lovely pass, dinked the ball over the top for Townsend on the left. His looping cross was scuffed on the volley by Cullen but found Simpson who controlled, used the defender to shield the ball from the keeper’s view and rolled it into the bottom corner [1-3].


The Tigers ran out 3-1 winners, a slightly flattering score line, and retain the Billy Bly Memorial Cup. It wasn’t a convincing display but that’s only ever a bonus at this point in pre-season. It’ll be 2 or 3 more games before we start to see Bruce’s influence on our play and garner any real clues as to what our system and style of play will be.

The obvious positive was that three strikers scored and we avoided injuries. Jakupovic settled well and communicated well with the defence. He had a couple of dodgy moments from corners but is quick off his line, looks to distribute quickly and is decisive at least. We didn’t learn a whole lot about the other players. No-one has turned into Lionel Messi over the summer and no-one has sunk to Chris Lee’s level either. Jay Simpson looked sharp, Joe Dudgeon impressed on the left and James Chester came out of defence as brilliantly as ever. Otherwise it was very much the same City as it was 79 days ago.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Proschwitz – How Much?


The Tigers look set to win the “race” to sign German striker Nick Proschwitz. Steve Bruce confirmed his interest in the SC Paderborn 07 man last week and things have moved quickly as Proschwitz flew into the teams training camp in Portugal yesterday to discuss a move.

Proschwitz is 25 years old, stands six feet four inches tall and scored seventeen goals in Bundesliga 2 last season. Hull City have been crying out for a bigger forward for the past two seasons and on the face of it, he appears to fit the bill. His 2011/12 statistics will tell you that he competes well in the air, he creates chances for other players and that he’s capable of taking a chance when it comes his way. Steve Bruce likes to play with wide players and a traditional front pair so a bigger striker would have been on his agenda as soon as he assessed the existing squad. I know some Hull City fans will be nervous of the terms “target man” or “big striker” or “German Peter Crouch” but those fears will hopefully prove unfounded. Norwich and Southampton have both won promotion in the past two seasons playing attractive, attacking football whilst having a large front player who scores goals but also links up with the midfield to hold up the ball and bring other players into play.



Proschwitz has a largely unimpressive CV. He played junior football in Germany before moving to Hannover and playing for their reserve team in the lower leagues. He moved onto Vaduz in Liechtenstein and then Thun in Switzerland. A reasonable season with Thun saw him sign a 3-year deal with Lucerne but moved on quickly after a change of coach and signed for Paderborn in 2011. He had a terrific 2011/12 season which brought him to the attention of some big clubs at home and abroad. Kaiserslauten, Bremen, Moenchengladbach and FC Basle were all linked with the player during the course of the season. In reality, the only firm interest came from The Tigers and newly promoted Bundesliga outfit Greuther Fürth. Proschwitz has stated that it is his “dream to play in the Bundesliga” which is to be expected from a German who has wandered around Europe trying to make the big time. Recent reports suggested that Proschwitz was very keen on a move to Fürth. These reports came out before Hull City’s interest became clear so don’t really affect the chances of The Tigers signing the player.

If you asked yourself why a player who turn down his “dream” move to come and play in England’s second tier in a city he’s probably never heard of then the answer should be obvious: Money. The financial strength of the German league is well documented but German clubs aren’t all cash rich. They are stable because they don’t pay massive transfer fees, they don’t overstretch on wages and they don’t gamble the club’s future on a season or two in the Bundesliga or the Champions League. Aside from Bayern Munich and perhaps Borussia Dortmund, most German clubs pick up players from lesser leagues for small fees, look to sell on the player for a profit and then replace them from source. For instance, Freiburg picked up Pappis Demba Cisse from Metz for €1.6m and sold him to Newcastle for £8m. By English Premier League standards, £8m is still cheap and Newcastle could make a huge profit themselves but probably not the eight times their investment that Freiburg pocketed. 



The media reports have suggested Hull City will pay £2m for Proschwitz, which equates to around €2.5m. The SC Paderborn fans are overjoyed at this news. Reports in Germany suggest the asking price was €1.3m which Greuther Fürth were looking to negotiate. Lucerne are due 30% of any fee Paderborn receive for Proschwitz so if he does come to Hull for £2m, Paderborn would still earn more than if they sold him domestically. One Paderborn fan excitedly stated that the club could pay €1m off their debt, put €250k into their youth system and still buy two good players with the remainder!

When news of the reported £2m fee broke on July 12th, most Hull City fans were cautious anyway. The club has struggled financially recently and that was far from the first time. Spending £2m on a proven striker would fill most with joy but on an unproven foreign player it looks a big risk. It’s not a risk Steve Bruce will be scared to take though. His transfer record may be hit and miss but he has a good record of taking unknown foreign players for fees that appear large and getting the best out of them. In several cases the club has made a good profit on the player too. The Tiger Nation will have to put its hands together and pray that Nick Proschwitz, if he arrives, is the next Wilson Palacios or Antonio Valancia and not the next Marcos Angeleri or Ji Dong-Won.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Championship Rivals' Business


The top five winners and losers in the transfer marker so far this summer.

Winners

Huddersfield Town

Manager Simon Grayson has made a statement of intent following Huddersfield’s return to the second tier after an 11 year absence. Grayson cleared the decks following their League One play-off final win and allowed some older players such as Tommy Miller, Danny Cadamarteri and Gary Naysmith to move on. His first signing of the summer was Crystal Palace striker Sean Scannell, once linked with multi-million pound moves to Spurs and West Ham, for just £400,000. Scannell has lost his way a little in the past couple of seasons but is still a young, dynamic player who has excellent dribbling ability and an eye for goal. He could be the steal of the summer window.

Hudds midfield has been significantly strengthened with the free signing of Manchester united midfielder Oliver Norwood, who impressed on loan at Coventry last season, and a half a million pound deal for Leeds’ Adam Clayton. Both are young, tidy footballers and Clayton in particular looked destined for bigger things.

A pair of new full-backs have also arrived at the Galpharm. Paul Dixon has joined from Dundee United but is probably one for the future while Joel Lynch is an established NPC full-back who had a very good season in a struggling Forest team. They are signings made by an ambitious club with an equally ambitious manager. Perhaps their most important bit of business so far is the fact that Jordan Rhodes, scorer of 85 goals in three seasons, is still a Huddersfield player. He’s sought after and would command a massive fee but the club are still holding on to him.

Brighton & Hove Albion

Brighton enjoyed a good season back in the Championship last season under the management of Gus Poyet. Last summer’s surprise signing Vicente has committed himself to the club for another season and has been joined by an ex-Valencia team mate in full-back Bruno (Saltor). Bruno played for Valencia in the Champions League last season and brings extensive experience with him from Spain. The signing of goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak from Manchester United, reportedly clinched ahead of Hull City and Ipswich Town, was another impressive piece of business.

Brighton stated their ambition last summer when they pipped a host of clubs to the signing of Craig Mackail-Smith while lately they’ve been credited with an interest in Jordan Rhodes. Their willingness to spend a few quid was displayed with the recent loan capture of former England left-back Wayne Bridge. Bridge comes on loan from Manchester City where his weekly wage is said to be £90,000. This will be a subsidised loan but will still be relying on Brighton making a significant contribution.

Blackburn Rovers

Another team back in the second tier after over ten years away. Blackburn had a turbulent time last season and came down from the Premier League amid fears of financial doom. So far they’ve managed to keep hold of their high profile players except for top-scorer Yakubu who moved to Chinese side Guangzhou. They’ve also managed to add a few players and have brought in quality and experience.

Danny Murphy’s move from Fulham made everyone in the NPC sit up and take notice. Murphy is an old fashioned schemer who could surely have continued to play in the top flight. Newcastle’s Leon Best also moved to Ewood Park for a fee of around £3,000,000. Best has Championship pedigree with Coventry City and performed far better than anyone predicted for Newcastle in the Premier League in the last two seasons. Blackburn have also added two Portuguese to their squad. Fabio Nunes is a little known young winger. Nuno Gomes is well known. He has 79 caps for Portugal, has scored goals in the World Cup and European Championships and has played nearly 300 times for Benfica. At 36 it’s questionable whether he has the legs for English football but he certainly has the nous.

Leeds United

The biggest surprise at Elland Road this summer is that Neil Warnock hasn’t yet managed to sign Clint Hill and Shaun Derry! He has signed paddy Kenny, a goalkeeper who’s played for him at three previous clubs and brings with him a wealth of experience. Kenny knows what it takes to get out of the Championship and how to cheat, both on and off the pitch. More impressively Leeds have signed Jason Pearce from hard-up Portsmouth. The centre-half was one of the few shining lights at Fratton Park last season. Derby’s Paul Green is an excellent signing in the midfield, though offset by the loss of Adam Clayton to Huddersfield, and Norwich City’s Adam Drury is a very reliable and experienced left back.

Perhaps most importantly of all though, Leeds have thus far managed to keep hold of captain Robert Snodgrass who seemed certain to follow Jermaine Beckford, Max Gradel, Bradley Johnson, Kasper Schmeichel and Jonny Howson out of Elland Road. They’re also holding on to Ross McCormack whose goals proved important last season.

Peterborough United

Posh have once again dipped into the lower leagues and reserve squads to replenish their squad with a batch of up and coming players. Goalkeeper Joe Lewis, who once looked a player of great promise, departed for Cardiff and has been replaced by Torquay’s Bobby Olejnik. The Austrian was brought to England by Aston Villa, served Falkirk will in the SPL and was named the best ‘keeper in League Two last season. Striker Tyrone Barnett, winger Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and defender Shaun Brisley have completed moves after joining on loan last season from Crawley, Wolves and Macclesfield respectively. Barnett is a beast of a striker who cost in the region of £1,200,000. Nathaniel Knight-Percival looks a good free signing after starring for Wrexham in the conference last season, midfielder Michael Bostwick has earned a big move after climbing up the leagues with Stevenage and Dundee United midfielder Danny Swanson was another sought after free agent.

Posh’s summer could head south if they receive offers too good to refuse for winger George Boyd and strikers Lee Tomlin and Paul Taylor. However, as the often do, Peterbro have prepared for the inevitable in advance.

Losers

Nottingham Forest

The uncertainty over the clubs future finally ended this week with the Al-Hasawi family taking over the club from the estate of Nigel Doughty. That uncertainty has cost Forest a number of their better performers in the past couple of seasons. Winger Garath McCleary  joined Premier League new-boys Reading, centre-half Luke Chambers left for Ipswich Town and full-back Joel Lynch has gone to Huddersfield Town. Another winger, Paul Anderson has also left after his contract ended. The sacking of manager Steve Cotterill suggests the new owners are keen to flex their muscle though and Forest could start to move up the rankings soon.

Leicester City

Nigel Pearson released a number of fringe players at the end of last season including high earners Darius Vassell and John Pantsil. His signings to date have been reasonable with young Manchester United duo Ritchie De Laet and Matty James signing for undisclosed fees. The signing of Fleetwood Town striker Jamie Vardy for a fee of around £1,000,000 looks a large risk but Hull City fans know first hand that Pearson’s team do their home work. Leicester’s appearance in the losers section to date is due to their outgoings. Leicester fans couldn’t get enough of telling everyone last summer that the pairing of Sol Bamba and Matt Mills was by far the best defensive unit in the Championship. Bamba has since been sold to Turks Trabzonspor for £750,000 while Mills, who had a dreadful season, was sold to Bolton at a loss of between £2.5-4m depending on who you believe.

It leaves Nigel Pearson with work to do in the market if Leicester are to justify their tag as the bookmakers favourites for promotion. Again.

Bristol City

Endured another poor season last time out resulting in manager Keith Millen being replaced by Derek McInnes. Their two signings so far have been unimpressive. Jody Morris, once a can’t miss prospect at Chelsea, has been hiding out in the wilderness (Scottish football) for the past few seasons. Greg Cunningham is a decent full-back but not a signing that will excite anyone or transform a poor outfit.

Burnley

Jason Shackell is a good signing for the Clarets joining from Derby for the dreaded undisclosed fee which is said to be around a million quid. They’ve taken on a couple of lower league players too, Mansfield’s Luke O’Neill and Orient’s George Porter. None of this will compensate for the loss of Jay Rodriguez to Southampton. Rodriguez was among the top 3-5 strikers in the league last season and won’t be easy to replace. Burnley looked an ordinary side for the most part before that loss and will need to go some to improve now.

Derby County

I admire the way Derby County are run under Nigel Clough. They spend wisely, investing in youth and don’t allow players to block the development of their own young players. They’ve improved year on year and have a nice blend of youth products and shrewd acquisitions. That will be tested this summer. Chris Maguire is no-loss, he failed to deliver after his signing from Aberdeen, but Jason Shackell and Paul Green could really be missed. Most worrying for the Derby fans will be the seemingly imminent departure of Steven Davies. Derby haven’t had a lot of strength in depth and their squad looks small at the moment. Winning the race for Northampton’s promising midfielder Michael Jacobs is the only plus point so far.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Higher Than A Four?


Steve Bruce sensibly made it his first priority as Hull City manager to fill the vacant goalkeeping position following the departures of Adriano Basso, Vito Mannone and Peter Gulacsi this summer. The club have been linked with numerous players in numerous positions over the past few weeks but separating the accurate stories from the fairy tales that are eagerly spread by greedy agents and the ubiquitous SKY Sports News at this time of year is a difficult task. As each name appears in a newspaper or on a website fans debate the merits of each name, the likelihood of it happening and the reasons why the player might not come to Hull or why Hull wouldn’t welcome the player.

Leaving aside specific names, it will be interesting to look at the areas Steve Bruce may look to strengthen. This isn’t easy for two reasons. The first being that it’s impossible to know just how many players Bruce will be looking to add to his squad. When speaking on the issue, he has only offered “three or four” as a vague answer In terms of adding quality to an already talented first eleven, that’s probably a sensible number. However modern football is about far more than the first eleven with most clubs looking to carry twenty or more quality players, usually two for each position. The tigers struggled in the last quarter of the 2011/12 season when the rigours of the season caught up on the relatively small first team squad. Nick Barmby was criticised for not using some of the fringe players to freshen up the team but the simple fact is he didn’t think they were good enough. He saw those players in training every day as player and manager for months in some cases and years in others and he didn’t think they could do a better job than a Matt Fryatt or Corry Evans playing at eighty percent of their capability. 


Steve Bruce has promised that everyone will start afresh under his management. It’s a standard and sensible approach. There’s no point him alienating anyone in the dressing room when he needs to maintain harmony in the squad and there’s no point him running down a player that he then hopes to offload to another club. Even though I’m sure he’ll attempt to give everyone a clean slate and to judge them with an open mind, it won’t be lost on him that some players have failed to impress the previous two or three managers (who can’t all be poor judges). So while “three or four” additions is a fair guess from a new manager it doesn’t take into account the lack of depth he might find or the players he might not fancy once he’s worked with them. It’s also difficult to second guess the manager because we don’t know how he’s going to set the team up. Bruce appears to be a 4-4-2 man. He likes a pair of strikers and pace and creativity from his wide players. I’d be quite surprised if we see him wander too much from this system but it’s hard to know what he might have taken from his Sunderland experience or what he might do to accommodate the system that the players have been used to for the best part of 18 months. 

Defensive cover is sure to be something on Bruce's mind. With club captain Jack Hobbs out of action until around Christmas, James Chester is missing his regular partner. Liam Cooper and Sonny Bradley covered at the end of last season but both lack experience at this level. We were lucky that first choice right-back Liam Rosenior avoided injury and lengthy suspension last season as young Danny East was the only natural replacement. Only at left back where Andy Dawson, entering his 10th season as a Tiger, and Joe Dudgeon compete do we have depth and options in defence. Experienced cover at right-back and centre-half comes in the shape of Paul McShane who, despite being the only City representative at the European Championships, hasn't been wanted at the KC. While undoubtedly committed and an infectious character, he lacks pace and is prone to error. The club would love to get his Premier League-level wages off their bill but it's proven difficult. McShane is no stranger to the manager as it was Bruce who "sold" him to us in the first place in part-exchange for the best defender we've ever had. It still hurts. I still wake up in the night screaming.


There is sure to be at least one striker recruited. We've been crying out for a bigger front man for two years. Under Pearson and Barmby, I often referred to it as a Plan B striker. Under Bruce, I'm sure he'll be looking for a Plan A striker to provide a foil for the smaller front players we already have. Nigel Pearson recognised the need last summer but the man he brought in, Dele Adebola, proved to be one of his few mistakes in the market. It was the right man but about three years too late. Pearson's hands were tied a little tighter than Bruce's are expected to be so the mistake need not be repeated. In Matt Fryatt and Aaron McLean we have ready made partners for any new forward. Fryatt is a natural goalscorer, one of the best outside the Premier League, while McLean can stretch defences with his pace and will work right across the front line. Any further additions up front will depend on what future Jay Simpson and Mark Cullen have at the KC. Simpson showed flashes of brilliance under Pearson but never consistently enough to convince him that he was the man while Barmby rarely used him at all. Cullen has been around the first team squad for three years without threatening a real breakthrough and has struggled to impress while out on loan. It wouldn't be a surprise if both or either were shipped out during the season, temporarily or otherwise.

The midfield area provides a few interesting questions for the new boss who has already stated that he feels it's an area in which we are strong. Though that hasn't stopped the rumour mill linking the club with Ryan Tunnicliffe, Paul Coutts and David Meyler. In the centre of midfield we have the old, calm head of Paul McKenna who exceeded all expectations last season. Corry Evans brings youthful exuberance and bundles of energy while Tom Cairney has all the ability in the world but needs to take games by the scruff of the neck. Seyi Olofinjana should provide height, strength and attacking threat from midfield but no Hull City manager has got a lot out of him so far. It's unlikely that anyone will take him off our hands so Bruce will have to try and get the best from him or else he'll become the most expensive piece of furniture at the KC Stadium ... again. With four reasonable options, one of whom eats up a great deal of budget, I think additions to the midfield are unlikely unless a quality player is available on a low-cost loan.


The wide areas appear the most urgent in terms of strengthening. Cameron Stewart is the only natural wide player in the senior ranks now that Robbie Brady and Josh King have returned to Manchester United. Stewart is hoping we'll see the best of him this season after an injury hit 18 months at the club. He endured a disappointing end to last season but feels that was caused by the effects of the long lay-off catching up with him. Bruce likes to employ wide players. In the past wingers like Jermaine Pennant, Antonio Valencia and Stephane Sessegnon have done well playing under him. Another player who's done well under Bruce is Sebastian Larsson who started as a central midfield player but settled into a wide role. That brings us to Robert Koren. Assuming City can fight off interest in Koren from Leicester City and Reading, Koren's position in the team will be a question for some debate again. Koren was originally deployed as a left sided midfielder by Nigel Pearson who didn't fancy him in a two man midfield. When injuries forced Pearson's hand in 2011, Koren moved into the middle and did a terrific job for a few games. The team then settled into the popular 4-2-3-1 system that they'd use for the remainder of Pearson's reign and most of Barmby's with Koren becoming a second striker. This position suited Koren with the team built around him and allowed him to concentrate on attacking, free of any defensive responsibility. If Bruce does settle on a more traditional set-up it raises questions about Koren's position again. Whether Bruce sees Koren as a central midfielder or a wide player also probably affects how many wide players we'll see brought in.

Bruce has already signed a pair of goalkeepers. If he added a winger and a striker, we'd have a good first eleven and he'd have made his "three or four" signings. However looking at our seven subs on a match day, we'd have a similar problem to the one we often had last season in that very few players on the bench had the ability to change the game. Olofinjana would give a bit of extra height and McLean some pace up front. To really change games though, we'll need another couple of attacking players who can challenge for the first team and have impact from the bench. Three or four then starts to become five or six or seven. Steve Bruce may have to do a bit more wheeling and dealing than he's planning. Or perhaps he's planning to do a bit more wheeling and dealing than he's letting on?

Monday, 9 July 2012

Safe Enough Hands?



The Tigers summer recruitment finally kicked off in July with two new goalkeepers arriving at the KC Stadium. News broke on Friday 6th July that Manchester United’s Ben Amos had agreed to a season-long loan deal and would join the players’ training camp in Portugal. However as Amos will be joining Manchester United on their pre-season tour of South Africa before completing the deal, Steve Bruce’s first official signing came today and came out of the blue.

The six foot, four inch Swiss international goalkeeper Eldin Jakupović joined the Tigers on trial for a week in March 2012 as Nick Barmby cast an eye over him with a view to a free transfer move this summer. Barmby’s well documented departure appeared to have put paid to any move for Jakupović. When I wrote about City’s potential transfer targets last week, I didn’t include the Swiss because the rumours had long since died off and he was spending time on trial at Ipswich Town. However the news of this trial obviously provoked City into action with Steve Bruce calling on the clubs scouting team to stop messing around Football Manager and dust off their dossier on Kozarac’s number one. Goalkeeping coach Gary Walsh, the sole survivor from the management cull, will have had some input too. Jakupović signed a two-year deal with City on 9th July and joined up with the squad in Portugal immediately. 


Jakupović is well-travelled. He was born in Bosnia (then Yugoslavia) but has dual Swiss nationality. He represented both countries at U21 level but opted for Switzerland. He went to Euro 2008 as back-up goalkeeper and won his only cap in a friendly against Cyprus. England will be his fourth port of call at club level having played in Switzerland for Grasshopper (twice) and Thun, in Russia for Lokomotiv Moscow and in Greece for Olympiakos and Aris Salonika.

Amos is an England U21 international who also has caps at all youth levels from 16-20. He is highly regarded at Old Trafford and made his Premier League debut against Stoke City last season after spending time on loan at Molde, Oldham Athletic and Peterborough United. He has been linked with Ipswich Town who appear to have the same list of goalkeeping targets as the Tigers. We’ve beaten them to Amos and Jakupović while Tomasz Kuszczak turned down both clubs to join Brighton & Hove Albion.


The signings will please some of the Tigers fans who were getting a little nervous that for a second summer in succession the only goalkeeper on the books heading into pre-season was Mark Oxley who is yet to make a first team appearance. To continue the déjà vu, despite being linked with a big money move for ex-loanee Vito Mannone, we’ve once again ended up with a loan ranger and a free agent as back-up. Last season it was Peter Gulacsi who joined from Liverpool hoping to get a season of first team football under his belt. He didn’t last half a dozen games in the first team and only stayed for most of the season because Liverpool refused to have him back. Amos looks a better prospect. He’s rated enough at Manchester United that he was preferred to Tomasz Kuszczak last season and was kept on as reserve goalkeeper when Kuszczak was allowed to join Watford. Apart from his single appearance in the top flight he has played little football at the top level so it’s going to be a big test for him to step up to the first team with a side that wants to challenge for promotion.

Jakupović will also hope to enjoy a more successful City career than Adriano Basso did last season. Brought in as an old head to help Gulacsi, Basso found himself as first choice after the Hungarian failed to impress. He did a fine job too before a persistent knee injury all but ended his season and probably his career. Jakupović is a good age for a goalkeeper at 27 and has good experience behind him. He’s been good enough to play at a good level in Europe, be involved in the Switzerland squad and has been linked with a move to Spurs on a couple of occasions. I’d imagine that Amos will be coming in on the proviso that he plays first team football but as we saw with Gulacsi last season, there are no guarantees that it will pan out that way. Jakupović should provide a good challenge for the #1 shirt.

These moves probably end the Tigers interest in Vito Mannone. Steve Bruce said last week that he’d be speaking to Arsenal about Mannone this week. One can only presume that City found the asking price for Mannone prohibitive and decided to explore new avenues. While it be nice to have a settled and long-term goalkeeper in place, it’s also understandable that the club would not want to spend upwards of half a million pounds on a goalkeeper when they feel there is value elsewhere. This is especially true if, as is rumoured, Mannone is going to be out of contract in a year’s time. Some will suggest the club have taken the cheap option which is probably true but something I support. Football transfers always have risk involved and there are no guarantees regardless of how much is spent. We should know. We spent two seasons in the top flight relying one two goalkeepers who cost a combined fee of £75,000.


And it has been said that Eldin Jakupović is the Bosnian Boaz Myhill. But only by me just then!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Wanna be A Tiger? #1

Brad Guzan (Goalkeeper) 


The USA international was released by Aston Villa in May 2012 after failing to agree a new contract. Guzan enjoyed a loan spell with Nigel Pearson's Tigers in 2010/11 and that solid if unspectacular spell means he'd get a warm welcome if he returned to the KC. Steve Bruce confirmed his interest but believes that Guzan will return to Aston Villa under new manager Paul Lambert. Not happening.

Credibility of rumour?: Michael Turner
Likelihood of happening?: As likely as Hull hosting the 2016 Olympics.

Ben Amos (Goalkeeper) 


Amos is a 22 year old Manchester United youth product. He's been capped by England at all junior levels but has so far made just 1 league appearance for United. following unproductive loan spells at Peterborough United and Molde (Norway) he enjoyed a spell at Oldham Athletic in 2011 making 16 appearances. He moved above Tomasz Kuszczak in the pecking order at United last season. The link is an obvious one given the tigers close links with United in recent seasons but a long-term loan would leave United with only two senior 'keepers.

Credibility: Gary Brabin
Likelihood: As likely as Liverpool winning the FA Cup.

Vito Mannone (Goalkeeper) 

 
Arsenal's Italian stopper has long been fancied to fulfill the gaping hole in the Tigers squad. He made 10 appearances for City on loan in 2010/11 impressing most with his quick distribution and decisive nature. He returned a year later for a second loan spell and made 21 appearances. The longer spell saw his form vary to a greater degree and he made a couple of key errors. He recovers quickly from such errors as he proved at Portsmouth last season where he made several key stops despite gifting Pompey their opening goal. Steve Bruce has confirmed his interest and Mannone has stated in the past that he'd love to come to Hull permanently. The sticking point is the transfer fee with Arsenal said to want £1m. An incentive based package might appease both parties.

Credibility: Dean Windass
Likelihood: As likely as Arsene Wenger being a reasonable man.

Paddy Kenny (Goalkeeper) 

 
Barely worthy of a mention due to the tenuous nature of the link. At the most, Hull City are being used to force more money out of Leeds United. Leeds being the expected destination of the ex-fat boy goalkeeper who's followed Neil Warnock up and down the country to Bury, Sheffield United and QPR. He might have followed him to Crystal Palace if not for his 9 month drugs ban in 2009. Has form with the Tigers supporters after his gloating in a sickening 2-3 defeat at Bramall Lane in 2005/06.

Credibility: Chris Lee
Likelihood: Sod likely, this one's about as welcome as a fart in a white telephone box.

Michael Keane (Defender) 

 
Another Manchester United junior linked with a move to join the massive band of former Reds at Hull City. The 19-year old was the reserve team player of the year at Old Trafford last year and also interests Blackburn Rovers. His arrival would be welcome at the KC with a temporary void in the centre of defence needing to be filled until Jack Hobbs returns from injury. His twin brother Will is a hot-prospect at Old Trafford with the striker already having made 3 appearances for England's U21's. Michael has represented Ireland at 3 junior levels but has since switched allegiance to England and appeared for the national U19 squad.

Credibility: Junior Lewis
Likelihood: As Likely as Phil Brown visiting Tanfastic in the next month.

Paul Coutts (Midfielder) 

 
Box to box midfielder who was rescued from the junior football system in Scotland by Darren Ferguson's Peterborough United. He played a key role in Posh's promotion to the Championship (alongside current Tiger Aaron McLean) but followed his manager to Preston North End in January 2010. Ferguson's Preston career ended rather abruptly and despite being a regular under Phil Brown, Coutts is surplus to requirements following Graham Westley's transfer revolution. Preston will want to lose his wages from their budget so he could be available for £400,000. Brown thinks he could eventually play in the Premier League. So he's probably rubbish!

Credibility: Damien Delaney
Likelihood: As likely as Steve Bruce leaving for a bigger job before Easter.

Ryan Tunnicliffe (Midfielder) 

 
Tough central midfielder schooled at Old Trafford. The 19 year old is an England youth international. He spent the first half of the 2011/12 season on loan at Peterbroough playing 26 times but returned to Manchester United after Christmas. Said to interest Blackburn Rovers too.

Credibility: Marc Joseph
Likelihood: As Likely as a bloke halting Hull's green revolution to save an antique crane.

Emile Heskey (Striker) 

 
Former England international is available on a free transfer after being released by Aston Villa. He was linked with a move to the Tigers an hour after Steve Bruce's unveiling having worked with the new manager at Birmingham and Wigan. Bruce has signed him once and sold him twice. The link appeared to be the media putting two and two together and Bruce's has stated that this is the case. I've never been confident of the Tigers attracting the former Leicester and Liverpool star and I still feel the opportunity to link up with former boss Martin O'Neill (and stay in the Premier League) at Sunderland or the to stay in the midlands with Wolves might appeal to him more. Heskey is a bit of a figure of fun in top level football given his low goal return and his ability to occasionally miss an unmissible chance but he's an experienced and powerful front player who's still in good shape and would provide a good foil for Fryatt or McLean.

Credibility: Stuart Green
Likelihood: As likely as City signing Alvaro Negredo for £12m.

Nick Proschwitz (Striker) 

 
Gangly German target man was unheard of in Hull until a few days ago. Plays in the second Bundesliga for Paderborn for whom he scored 17 times in 33 games last season. A product of Hannover's reserve side, he arrived at Paderborn via Vaduz of Liechtenstein and Thun and Lucern in Switzerland. Steve Bruce has confirmed his interest but any deal is at an early stage. A transfer fee will be required but it shouldn't be too significant. Transfer fees in Germany are much lower than those in England, unless the buying club is Bayern Munich when a "no-one likes you" premium is added.

Credibility: Bo Myhill
Likelihood: As likely as a 10-year old from East Hull being ejected from the South Stand for swearing next season.