What a strange season it has been for the Hull City faithful. Going into the season; we had no manager, only 13 senior players available for selection, no new signings, and looked set to be this season’s Premier League whipping-boys.
Despite only picking up one point in our last two games against Burnley at Turf Moor and Arsenal at home, I have been delighted with my team’s determination to prove all the pundits wrong so far this season.
It’s worth just sitting back and reviewing the current situation every once in a while during a Premier League campaign, and now seems the perfect opportunity to do so.
The Tigers are sitting in 12th position in the league table after five fixtures played, with seven points currently on the board. If I am brutally honest, this is probably seven more points than I expected we would have at this point in the season, and for this, full credit must go to Mike Phelan and his staff, and the dogged determination, togetherness, and never-say-die attitude he has managed to instil in his limited, tight-knit squad.
I’ll hold my hands up and say that at the start of the campaign, I was worried. I thought even with a few more signings, my team, under the management of a previously untested manager in Phelan, would find it nearly impossible to maintain their Premier League status.
But hey, what do I know? Five games in and our squad, made up of much of the same squad that was relegated just two seasons ago, looks competitive and up for the fight, and that’s all any Hull City fan can ask for.
Along with Phelan, a number of players deserve particular praise. First of all our Captain Marvel – Curtis Davies. The former West Brom and Aston Villa man has been phenomenal in every game this season and according to Opta statistics, he is the best all round defender in European football right now.
At the start of the season, he was City’s only fit centre-half and remarkably his performances seem to have got the very best out of stand-in defender Jake Livermore, who until his sending off against Arsenal this weekend, had also been in immaculate form.
In ‘Big Sam’s’ so-called shake up of the England squad, and with few quality options to choose from other than John Stones, Davies deserves at least a call-up in Sam’s next Three Lions training camp.
A special mention must also go to Sam Clucas. The midfielder, who was signed for just over a million pounds just 14 months ago, has stepped up to the Premier League with apparent ease, incredibly in a previously unfamiliar central role in midfield.
The 25-year-old, who is famously the most successful graduate of the Glenn Hoddle Academy, has started each Premier League game this season and was an absolute pleasure to watch on Saturday as his tireless work rate and wide range of passing caused Arsenal some real problems in the early stages of the game, before Livermore’s dismissal.
With Livermore likely to be suspended for the Tigers’ trip to Anfield on Saturday, Harry Maguire will partner Davies in the heart of defence, however, other than that, it’s hard to know if Phelan will make any further changes for the game. After Wednesday night’s victory over Stoke City in the EFL Cup, which saw new signings Ryan Mason and Markus Henriksen both score, the duo will be looking for starts at the weekend.
Personally, after his impressive looking cameo at the weekend, I would like to see Dieumerci Mbokani replace Adama Diomandé in the starting XI to partner Abel Hernandez up top, and perhaps the energetic looking Mason replacing David Meyler in midfield.
While Liverpool have looked incredibly impressive in recent weeks with a quite frankly unbelievable set of attacking options going forward, Burnley have proved that their defence can be vulnerable, and Klopp’s men can be frustrated if contained appropriately.
I would like to see a starting XI of Jakupovic, Elmohamady, Davies, Maguire, Robertson, Snodgrass, Huddlestone, Mason, Clucas, Hernandez and Mbokani.
With Liverpool away on Saturday, before a visit from Chelsea the following week, any points we pick up in the next few weeks would be a bonus.
However, what a change in the atmosphere around the KCOM there has been in recent weeks, and with Phelan likely to finally sign a permanent contract this week, and rumours of a return of immensely popular former Chairman, Adam Pearson, as the head of a new consortium looking to buy the club, you never know, little old Hull City might spring a few more surprises.