Hull City Season Preview: youthful additions

With the 2018-19 Championship season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to Hull City fan David Morley (@DaveMorley4).

You won six games by a margin of three or more goals in 2017-18 – the fourth-most in the division – and yet the threat of relegation often loomed large. Is this a poor team capable of the occasional wonder-show, or a good team that hasn’t been playing to it’s potential?

Last season was probably the strangest season I’ve had following the club – older fans may disagree – simply because of our inconsistency. When we were at the races, we were fantastic to watch, but most of the time our frail defence often showed. I think this was down to a lack of desire from a large amount of the players – if we went 1-0 down, we folded. If we went 1-0 up, we started to grow in confidence. For me this was down to the amount of loan players we had in defence, and also some players wanting out.

A lot of fans remain angry towards the Allam regime. Do you see Nigel Akins’ relentless positivity to be a good thing, or is there a danger that he could be perceived by some as a ‘yes man’?

When Adkins came in, I swayed between two thoughts: no manager in their right mind would want to step in to this club with the Allam’s at the helm, or he’s here to be a yes man. We were hammered at Sunderland and in his post match comments, he stated “our pre match warm up was fantastic”. After he said that I was definitely leaning towards he’s not in his right mind!! He comes across to many as frustrating, trying to find good things in even the worst situation (for example our pre match warm up after being hammered by Sunderland), and it grates on me too. I would rather sometimes he said it as it is. However I feel this is part of the reason the Allam’s appointed him; in the past managers and players have said things the owners perceive to be out of line, there’s no danger of that with Adkins. I do feel he’s building a bigger picture at the minute, the players coming in are a sign of this, but results must turn around this year if he is to appease to fans.

Goalkeeper Allan McGregor, centre-back Michael Dawson plus midfielders Sebastien Larsson and David Meyler have all left. Where do you see the leadership coming from?

Not sure on this one. We’ve lost the remaining spine that was at the club, everyone who was on the team sheet for the F.A. Cup final, even our past promotion to the premier league, have gone. There’s no one who the fans look to as the leader, or a hero. Growing up as a football fan your heroes are sometimes the ones who resonate with the fans, they’re a leader on the pitch, not the most technically gifted but they perform every week for the crest on their shirt. And I don’t see that with any of our current crop.

David Marshall was one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League in 2013-14. Can he rediscover that form, or might Will Mannion challenge him for the jersey?

We have now signed George Long from Scunthorpe, that to me means one of our current keepers will be on their way out. I hope that if it is Mannion that goes, it’s only a loan deal, he has huge potential and I would like to think he’s still got a future here. So far, Marshall hasn’t been given a fair crack, I would like to see him have a regular stint in goal and show the fans what he’s made of.

Chelsea loanee Todd Kane looked technically impressive at Oxford last year while Eric Lichaj is a willing battler. Are you happy with your right-back options?

This looks one of our stronger positions, I am interested to see which one is the preferred choice for Adkins and see how they do in a black and amber shirt. Our defenders on loan from Chelsea last year did alright, but to me they didn’t show the desire you need to be successful in the Championship, I hope we see more from Todd Kane. On a side note, I’m sad to see Moses Odubajo go. We stuck by him when he was injured, and he finally gets back and moves on. The cynic in me says that’s down to the owners offering a poor extension to his contract.

You’ve added two young centre-backs in Reece Burke and Jordy de Wijs. Do you expect one of them to partner Angus MacDonald?

Youth in defence didn’t work out last season, Michael Dawson was at times covering for everybody else and focusing on them so much that he was often caught out of position himself. I feel if he can’t lead some younger players about successfully (albeit his legs have gone), I worry about MacDonald playing the same role. If Ondrej Mazuch stays fit he would be my preferred choice to start in defence.

You look a tad short at left-back at the time of writing, although Scunthorpe’s Conor Townsend has been linked. Could you rely on Stephen Kingsley to start 46 league games?

Why we now think a player we let go in the first instance is good enough to come back and do a job for us sums up where we are as a club. He may feel he has a point to prove in coming back, I don’t know, but I think he could do well if he comes back. Kingsley initially looked like a good signing last year but was kept out by injury, and Max Clark holding down the position. Although he plays Left back, he came up as a central midfielder. For me, if a young player playing out of position can keep out a more experienced, proven player, it is a telling sign that it isn’t quite going to work out here for Stephen Kingsley. Max is another player I’m said to see go, he is a homegrown talent and I’m pleased for him and excited to see how his playing career works out abroad.

Midfielders Jackson Irvine and Markus Henriksen have had fine goalscoring records at Burton and AZ Alkmar respectively. Are you hoping to get more out of them in that regard this year?

Last season we played Irvine completely out of position to where he played for Burton, so he was never going to get the same chances at goal. I think if we manage Henriksen well this year he could be vital, and I’m sure fans would love to see him play to his full potential, I’m sad to say we haven’t seen it yet.

You seemed to have some good options out wide last year with Kamil Grosicki’s creativity and Jarrod Bowen’s movement. Will David Milinkovic add to your options?

If we believe the paper talk it is highly likely that come the end of the transfer window we won’t have the services of Grosicki or Bowen. I would love for us to keep both players, as Bowen’s record last year speaks for itself, and Grosicki can produce something in the blink of an eye. I’m looking forward to seeing how Milinkovic settles in, there’s no doubt he’ll get the minutes. It’s a surprising signing and he has the potential to be a fans favourite.

Your attacking record improved by 30% last season when Abel Hernandez started. Now that he’s left, do you have a striker capable of replacing him?

Frazier Campbell needs to convert more chances, and stay fit. I was sceptical when he returned to the club but I think his effort he puts in chasing defenders down, and the graft he puts in for the team shows that he’s not here just for a payday. I feel we need another striker at the club to partner Campbell, and most importantly put the ball in the back of the net.

Hull aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the Championship season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

It’s an exciting one, we say it every year but the Championship is getting more competitive. Wolves ran away with it last year and rightly so, this year it will be tighter. I picked out Derby last year, I’ll stand by them again but also fancy Stoke (they suit the Championship down to a tee) and Leeds to do well.

Where will you finish?

I’d take anywhere in the top half, realistically I’m going 15th.

Thanks to David for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Hull can be found on We Love Betting from late July.