Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Hull City - The summer so far...

A look at what The Tigers have been up to so far and must do with the rest of the off-season to compete for promotion from the Championship in 2015/16...

Wolves striker Benik Afobe - Would he be worth a big splash?

Goalkeepers

Business so far?

Steve Bruce released veteran Steve Harper and the club’s longest serving “player” Mark Oxley at the end of last season. He could have gone either way on both but no-one is crying over either decision. Oxley has signed a two year deal at Hibs where he spent last season on loan.

What might happen next?

Some say Bruce will let Eldin Jakupovic go after three years of barely warming the Tigers’ bench.

What must City do?

Whether the Jak stays or goes, we need to find a goalkeeper who will challenge McGregor. It would be preferable if it’s a younger goalkeeper with huge presence who can develop alongside McGregor while genuinely challenging him. I expect to see a free agent who’s been around the block.

Defenders

Business so far?

The retained list announced by City after relegation did not contain the names of Liam Rosenior and Paul McShane. Both players should have been the back bone of a squad looking to win promotion from the Championship. Instead Rosenior will play for Brighton next season while McShane interests Reading. Maynor Figueroa and the unfortunate Joe Dudgeon were also released.

What might happen next?

Michael Dawson appears to have committed his future to The Tigers but James Chester, Ahmed Elmohamady, Curtis Davies, Andy Robertson and Robbie Brady continue to attract admirers. The rumour mill says that Everton and Newcastle want Elmo, Norwich, WBA and Villa covet Brady, Palace fancy Davies and half the Premier League want JC and Robertson.

What must City do?

Chester, Elmo and Brady absolutely must stay. All deserve to play in the Premier League next season but if the club has the ambition to bounce back – they have to be part of the team. Sadly all three are out of contract next season which doesn’t give the club a lot of protection. A shoddy policy of renewing contracts is threatening to bite us on the arse.

Youngsters Harry Maguire and Brian Lenihan didn’t get much of a look-in last season but if Bruce is serious about building a younger, hungrier squad then their inclusion on a regular basis will be most welcome and will somewhat temper the disappointment of seeing great professionals like Rosenior and McShane depart.

Arrivals will only be necessary if we lose players. Otherwise we have quality and competition in every position and the ability to play three at the back or a back four.

Midfielders

Business so far?

The indefatigable Stephen Quinn has turned down a new contract offer from The Tigers and joined Reading. Clearly under-valued by Bruce until relegation was confirmed and he realised Quinny would come in useful – the Irishman has chosen to seek pastures new.

What might happen next?

Jake Livermore will receive a ban of between six months and two years (the latter most likely) after testing positive for cocaine after the game against Crystal Palace in April. Tom Huddlestone has been linked with a move to Bournemouth with many fans offering to give him a lift. Mo Diame and Robert Snodgrass are unlikely to be fit for the start of the season.

What must City do?

We weren’t awash with options in midfield last season with Diame and Snodgrass’s injuries. With the departures and suspensions we need to bring in at least two players to compete with Meyler and Huddlestone in a four man midfield or alongside them in a three.

A motivated Huddlestone could be a huge asset if no-one is crazy enough to buy him but motivated isn’t something Tom has been very often in the last 18 months. If he wants to resurrect a career that is currently heading for the “wasted potential” category.

When Bruce talked about building that young, hungry squad, he had to have had midfield in mind. We need energy, pace and power in midfield and he has to find players who can pass the ball too because the quality of the Championship continues to grow year on year.

Forwards

Business so far?

Yannick Sagbo was released to the surprise of no-one. Young winger Calaum Jahraldo-Martin signed a new contract and will be hoping to be involved next season.

What might happen next?

Expensive flop Abel Hernandez, January signing Dame N’Doye and the excellent but often injured Nikica Jelavic will all be moved on because their wages are ridiculous and none of them fancies playing in the Championship. Jelavic will go with everyone’s best wishes, N’Doye will be remembered as someone who did his best while Hernandez will go down as the biggest waste of money in the history of our club.

Tom Ince’s future remains unclear. Derby have the option to buy him for around £5m as the result of a clause someone short-sighted put into his loan deal in January. He’s another player Bruce now desperately wants to keep given his record at Championship level and must now grovel to.

What must City do?

For about the millionth time since Bruce became manager he now has to find a striker or three. Only the aforementioned Jahraldo-Martin and Sone Aluko look certain to start the season at the KC and neither of them are out and out strikers.

Unless you get very lucky in the loan market – strikers cost a fortune, even at Championship level, and there are few guaranteed to score goals. Andre Gray of Brentford is one of the few realistic names mentioned as a potential target. The fact that he has a price tag of £4m after one reasonably successful season at Championship level shows what the club are up against.

Wolves striker Benik Afobe would be my first pick if we’re splashing out big money while free agents Jamie Ward and John Guidetti are a couple of talented if lost souls who would be worth a contract.