Hull City Season Preview

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The Football Lab spoke to fan @Ollie_Claxton ahead of the new season. Here, he discusses last season’s excellent performances from Curtis Davies, the signings of wingers Tom Ince and Robert Snodgrass, and why getting established in the Premier League is more important than Europa League progression.

Having reached the FA Cup final, you’ll now be playing in the Europa League. Is there a slight danger that the club over-invests to get a big enough squad, then gets relegated with an excessive wage bill?

There’s always a risk, yes, but the risk of relegation is emphasised by not spending enough on premier league standard players. Being in europe is a nice thing to say, particularly when you remember that 10 years ago people were rattling buckets outside Boothferry park to pay the players. But honestly, I don’t think we’re ready for it quite yet, another half decade where everything goes to plan and maybe we’ll be ready. But I couldn’t care less if we don’t make the group stage because premier league stability comes first.

According to Who Scored, no Premier League centre-back won more aerial duals than Curtis Davies – 4.6 per game. Did he deserve to be Hull’s player of the season?

Definitely. He has been immense both as a player and a leader, not only does he boast overwhelming stats but he also supports the spine of the team. It was Davies who inspired the infinitely improved performance in the second half of the FA cup semi final against Sheffield where we had played diabolically first half. I was probably the worst performance I’d ever seen city undertake and really is saying a lot given our fairly recent history.

Alongside Davies, would you agree that you could do with another centre-back? And would Michael Dawson be the man?

When you’re not scoring for fun every game there’s always room for another solid defensive player, however I’m not sure Michael Dawson would be the best option; his legs have gone by all account and the spurs fans seem to be divided over whether they rate him or not. Considering his age, I’d say the £4m price tag would be much better spent on Harry McGuire from Sheffield {now signed} who is considerably younger and has much more potential. I’m surprised the club seem to be balking at a £2m price tag considering the money already spent this summer.

Is £8 million an inflated price for Jake Livermore?

Probably yes, but there are several very good reasons that he’s worth paying over the odds for; 1, he provides a level of midfield stability that is essential at a club like ours that will, let’s be honest, not be favourites for survival, 2, he provides good defensive cover and back-tracking while also posing a potent attacking threat; he’s got a good shot on him in other words. He’s also English, which while being suitable for the communication necessary to be a commanding midfielder, also adds to our fairly long list of homegrown players. This may be a frivolous sidenote but he also seems like a very genuine guy away from the pitch as well as on it; there is good account of the high spirit and camaraderie at the club and from watching behind the scenes videos on the clubs channel, you get the feeling that he’s a contributor to the squad’s chemistry.

Wingers Tom Ince and Robert Snodgrass sign from Blackpool and Norwich respectively. Will those two add more invention to the side’s attacking play?

Almost certainly. Snodgrass has proven himself as a strong attacking winger with a good eye for set pieces. Having watched him in pre-season I can see why Bruce persued him, he fits very well into Bruce’s system. Ince, despite being less experienced will almost certainly be able to flourish now he’s getting regular 1st team premier league football. He’s shown flashes of quality in pre-season and if he can work on his finishing I think we’ll have a top draw player on our books.

Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic arrived in January, yet you only scored 42% of your goals in the second half of the season. Were those two signings worthwhile?

It’s hard to judge any signing on only half a season, but seeing their partnership in action really is great to watch, one goal in particular is the second goal against cardiff in last season’s 4-0 away victory. They suit eachother very well, long doing the running and jelavic providing the finish which is what he is renowned for. Despite only getting less than 10 goals between them, they kept us up and their performance can only get better.

As a supporter, are you disappointed that the club’s name does not appear on the new badge?

Not overtly, no. The name has only appeared on the badge since the 80’s though the 90’s, 00’s and 10’s which ironically were our worst years as a football club. What I am disappointed with is the lack of consultation between fans and the club’s senior management, and could they not have done a better job? It’s not a great looking badge to be honest. I’ve seen some far more attractive and iconic ones on design forums.

Steve Bruce has a track record of stabilizing clubs in the top flight. How important is Premier League experience in a manager?

Bruce has also been inspirational as our manager, we couldn’t have come this far with any other potential manager we had at the time of his appointment. I think we were being linked with Paul Jewell at one point, god forbid. Premier league experience is important in all clubs, but is almost a prerequisite for smaller clubs like us. You can have your Van Gaals and your AVBs come and go for big clubs and relatively little harm is done but an inexperienced manager for a small club can be it’s own doom. Ergo, I fear for Leicester, Burnley and West Brom. I think they are heavy relegation candidates purely because of the managers.

With most bookmakers, Hull are at around 11/4 for relegation. Where will you finish?

I’d be happy with 17th this season, I don’t care as long as we stay up. We’d be the last small club to overstate ourselves and more often than not we are humbled by failure but realistically if we keep injury free and don’t fanny around in europe too long I think we could go for a 13th – 16th place finish, possibly higher with a bit of luck. On paper there’s at least three or four teams worse than us in more than one respect.

TFL Verdict

The extra Europa League games could be a big problem for Hull, who were in awful form in the second half of last season. Relegation. 20th