Hull well prepped for that difficult second season – interview
Tuesday, 12th Aug 2014 22:45 by LFW
Ahead of Saturday's opening game of QPR's Premier League season, LFW caught up with Hull City fans John Gibson and George Bell for the low down on Rangers' opponents.
Last season must have surpassed your wildest expectations? Where did it all go so right considering the team you went up with, on paper, didn’t look that strong.
JG: Last season was beyond our wildest dreams. The squad wasn't massive but the players we brought in had a lot of consistency and pedigree. The early additions of Allan McGregor, Curtis Davies, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore gave us a good strong core through the middle. In Steve Harper you couldn't ask for a more exceptional back up keeper. Then in January Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long came in and scored some vital goals. I think I speak for everyone when I say we all wonder what could of been if we had bought the latter pair in at the start of the season and they not been cup tied.
GB: Not sure about "wildest expectations" or the squad not looking strong - with Steve Bruce's astute business in the transfer market I think most City fans were quietly confident of doing well last season. The players brought in, such as Huddlestone, Livermore, Davies, Figueroa, McGregor and Harper all had plenty of top flight experience and were added to a squad with plenty of existing Premier League quality in Meyler, Chester , Rosenior, Elmohamady and Brady. The FA Cup run was icing on the cake but it did have a negative effect on league performances and but for that we would have finished comfortably mid-table.
Who were the stand out performers last season?
GB: Without question the stand-out performer was Curtis Davies. Not having had the luxury of a capable strike force for a number of seasons, defence was always going to be vital to our survival and Davies being widely tipped to catch the plane to Brazil was testament to his contribution last season. Another that ought to have been included in Hodgson's squad was Tom Huddlestone. Given the platform to display his abilities week-in-week-out by Steve Bruce he didn't disappoint, frequently dominating midfield in games. Others who played key roles last season were Elmohamady for his delivery from wide positions, Chester for his reliability at the heart of the defence and Jake Livermore for his tireless work rate in midfield.
JG: Curtis Davies was a big stand out - how he did not knock on the door of an England call up is somewhat puzzling. A strong player and a sound captain. I just hope we offer him a new contract and keep him.
What have you made of your summer transfer business so far, and is there a suggestion of more to come? Who’s been mentioned?
GB: This summer we have made five signings so far: Livermore made his loan permanent, Robert Snodgrass from Norwich, Tom Ince as a free agent with compensation, Harry Maguire from Sheffied and Andy Robertson from Dundee Utd. Livermore, Snodgrass and Robertson are all full internationals and Ince and Maguire are U-21s. Good signings that will definitely improve the quality of the squad either now or in the near future. We still need more though as the Europa League will take its toll so it is expected another centre-back - perhaps Michael Dawson - a defensive midfielder and a striker may still come in perhaps through the loan market.
As to whether we fans are happy with the signings or not, well, Steve Bruce has made 26 signings in two years and most would say only one has been a flop, so "In Bruce We Trust".
JG: Securing Livermore was good albeit a little pricey - the price you pay for English players. Snodgrass and Ince give us something different and we have some players coming back that missed a lot of last season that will be like having new signings. We also have the two young lads McGuire and Robertson who have a lot of potential.
Where is the team particularly strong, and where are the weak links?
GB: Last Season Bruce favoured a 3-5-2 formation and in general our defence was our strongest asset. That hasn't changed and if we sign an experienced centre back we should get improve further. Up front Jelavic and Long proved a handful for most defences, with Yannick Sagbo in reserve, but we are still a little short up front in terms of backup with Matty Fryatt leaving for Forest . But I think the main area for concern is in the ball winning department. Huddlestone is a creative passed and Meyler and Livermore are engine rooms but we lack a mean, bite-your-legs type to break up play when we don't have the ball.
JG: I would say we are strong in goal, and upfront. A good pedigree centre back is maybe what we need, preferably with European experience for the first chapter of that in our history.
Are you worried about the oft-mentioned second season syndrome? Particularly with the extra European games factored in… How do you think you’ll do this season?
GB: Second season syndrome happens because teams don't evolve and other teams work out how to combat what was previously unexpected. Steve Bruce is wily enough to have worked out a solution to that. What concerns me more is the Europa League and the extra games we will end up playing if we do well. However, hopefully we'll get to the group stages and then bow-out. That will give us half a season and a transfer window, to recover from the effects should that be necessary. Given the squad and hopefully no ill-effects from the European games, I would expect a three or four league position improvement on last season.
JG: I think we have strength in depth this time round and if we play well in the start of the European games then it should enable us to get up to match fitness a lot quicker. I hope it helps but it will be difficult we will all agree.
What do you make of Assem Allam? Tremendous improvements on the pitch, quite a controversial and divisive figure off it. Overall?
GB: He saved the football club I have supported for 42 years from going out of existence by paying off £50m of debt and then spent another £40m funding our return to the Premier League. What more needs to be said?
JG: I think he has done wonders for the club. He has spent a lot of money bringing us back to the Premier League with an excellent manager.
And where do you stand on the name change debate?
GB: I dislike the name change and I wish the owner would drop the idea as history and tradition are crucial to the culture of football in this country. But after what he has done for the football club, the name change issue is not significant enough to make me oppose the man.
JG: I support the team, the name doesn't bother me. We are Hull and we are the Tigers and if it brings us more money making us even stronger then I'm all for it.
Where do you think the club can go short, medium and long term?
GB: Short term, we are looking to survive again. In the medium term, the TV contracts are going to get another massive hike in 2016 and if we can survive until then, we can set the club up in the areas that ensure long term sustainability such as the academy and training facilities.
Long Term, I see no reason why, with the support and catchment area we can call upon, we cannot establish ourselves as a permanent Premier League club, but it all depends on money and survival in the short and medium term.
JG: I think we just need to keep building. I wouldn't mind another good cup run again, but survival is the key. Long term to be a strong established team with a bigger ground and fan base.
The Twitter @GeorgieBoy61, @Loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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