For all the good things going on around Hull City at the moment – there is a potentially ugly situation lurking in the background.
Since the Allams purchased the club in 2010 their footballing decisions have been immeasurably better than those made in the boardroom. However one area they have struggled with – or simply do not place importance on – is the renewal of contracts. Only a handful of players including James Chester, Liam Rosenior and Alex Bruce have had their deals renewed since the Allams arrived.
Matt Fryatt and Stephen Quinn have walked away in the past two summers and others such as James Chester and Robbie Brady have had to be sold because the single year remaining on their contracts has left the club unprotected.
The situation looks set to be worse than ever this summer with ten senior players out of contract. Given the individual circumstances surrounding each player, the reduced wages currently being paid and the uncertainty over the level of income the club will receive next season – there isn’t a simple answer.
Here’s a look at the ten players in question:
It’s hard to imagine a City team without “Elmo”. He’s become a fixture of the team for the better part of three years and his energy, athleticism and versatility make him a vital part of the team. The word is that he changed his agent in the summer and, despite him making signs of his happiness in Hull, his manager felt his “head had been turned” by transfer speculation.
Securing Elmo should be number one on the club’s priority list. He’s often the best attacking weapon in the team and it would be a major blow to lose a player of his quality. Either for nothing at the end of the season or more worryingly – for a relatively small fee in January. Elmo’s low risk and large reward.
His contribution has often been under-valued since he joined City from Sunderland along with Elmo in the autumn of 2012. It seems some feel that City have achieved promotion, survival, a Wembley final and European football in spite of a player who has clocked up a hundred appearances in black and amber without ever letting anyone down. Hopefully the team’s resurgence in the past few weeks since Meyler and the returning Jake Livermore revitalised our midfield has made admirers out of some doubters.
Meyler is settled at City and always committed. He’s nowhere near the highest earner and, most importantly, he’s worth having whether City stay in the Championship or get promoted again. There’s no excuse for not sorting this one out ASAP.
Davies’ return to the kind of form he showed during his brilliant first season in Hull has put the club in a position no-one expected last summer. After that superb debut season, the big central half quickly fell from grace. Some pointed to his disappointment at not being offered a new contract in the summer of 2014 while I always felt the arrival of Michael Dawson on the sort of money Davies was hankering for pushed his nose out of joint.
Whatever the reason, he disappointed massively last season and spent half of it as a mere spectator. He’s turned that around since the departure of James Chester opened up a major role for him again and has reminded everyone of just how good he is. Whether he’ll now stay beyond the summer is doubtful though. He’s commented openly about the lack of a contract offer from the club and doesn’t appear to feel particularly wanted. He has elements of his life down South and in the Midlands and I think he’ll move on.
The enigma. How on earth a player with the natural ability Huddlestone possesses has ended up in the Championship is a quandary. That he’s currently struggling to get a game at this level, albeit in what is currently the best team, is mystifying. However that is the situation he finds himself in and no-one who has watched him regularly for the last twenty-two months would offer any sort of argument against it being completely just.
His contractual situation isn’t a simple one for either party. City wouldn’t want Huddlestone’s wage on the books if they remain in the Championship and it’s debatable whether they’d see him as a worthwhile investment in the Premier League these days. Tom isn’t going to sign a deal on the reduced wages he and his team mates currently find themselves. Sadly it seems inevitable that they’ll part ways in June. Tom should have been the most talented player any of us had ever seen represent The Tigers. Shoulda. Coulda. Wouldn’t.
Another whose City career has been revitalised after a poor season last time and an appalling start to the current one. He tested Steve Bruce’s management and the gaffer showed faith in him when he needed it and has been rewarded. In August, McGregor’s standing amongst City fans ranged somewhere between Paul Duffen and Mark Hateley. However since he re-found the form that had fans purring two years ago – we’ve formed a case of mass amnesia.
Even a month ago I doubted whether anyone, fans or management, cared whether he left in the summer. There’ll be very few now who feel that way. He’s another for whom the situation isn’t simple. He’s on reduced money and probably has one decent move in him before he spends a decade wandering the six yard boxes of the Outer Hebrides or wherever it is that Rangers are playing that week. I think he’ll only stay if City are promoted.
This season’s penalty hero has never made a big impression on Steve Bruce and never got a sniff of the first team in the league even with Allan McGregor’s troubles this season. He is a cheap and cheerful back-up goalie though and there’s a good chance he’ll be offered something. Especially if City are promoted and look to carry three ‘keepers again. He may fancy going somewhere he might actually play though.
Once the most exciting member of The Tigers’ forward line, Aluko has struggled for form and fitness for the better part of three seasons. Having made such an explosive start to his career here, it will be a shame to see it go out with a whimper but his bit-part role doesn’t do much to suggest that keeping him beyond the end of the season is on anyone’s agenda.
He had a chance to make an impact after relegation with the club playing at a level at which we’ve all seen him excel. He’s not grasped the mettle and it’s hard to make a case for him doing so at this point.
When he joined in the summer everyone was worried about his fitness coming off two serious knee injuries. That hasn’t been a problem so far. He’s just struggled to get into the team. Taylor is known for his versatility but at the moment, he’s just not as good as someone else in several positions. He’s the wrong side of thirty and, in truth, has been one of the poorest signings Steve Bruce has made here.
Calaum Jahraldo-Martin & Conor Townsend
The summer could be the end of the line for exciting winger CJM and athletic left-back Townsend. Both turn 23 before the end of the season and despite strong performances for the club’s U21 side and never letting anyone down during fleeting first team appearances both are as far from a senior breakthrough as ever.
Sadly we’re at the stage where both need to move on and find regular first-team action if they aren’t going to get it at City. Townsend has been unlucky not to have had an opportunity before now and you certainly feel like if it was going to happen for him then it would have been earlier this season when The Tigers’ squad was paper-thin.