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Hull City – 2014/2015 Season Preview
KingFut.com’s Hull City correspondent Jamie Barwick previews the Tigers’ season ahead of the start of the 2014/15 English Premier League campaign.
Hull City enjoyed their greatest ever season last campaign with a club-record 16th placed finish, rounded off with an FA Cup final appearance. Albeit gallantly beaten by Arsenal in extra-time having been 2-0 ahead, their first final appearance in their history was enough to secure Europa League qualification.
Manager Steve Bruce faces the unenviable task of trying to equal if not better their 2013/14 season whilst trying to juggle the Europa League schedule with his small contingent of players. Having narrowly seen off Slovakian side AC Trencin, thanks to a late Sone Aluko goal ten minutes from time, the Tigers are one round away from the group stages of the competition.
Whilst Bruce has hailed the achievements of the club in reaching the Europa League a minor hiccup in not reaching the group stages may not prove too bad in the grand scheme of things. When injuries take their toll on his side the Thursday night and weekend game schedule coupled with the travelling could prove their undoing.
In terms of transfers, Bruce has again been financially backed by the owners Assem and Ehab Allam to the tune of £20.3 million. Jake Livermore turned his loan spell into a permanent move for a club-record £8 million after putting in some impressive displays throughout last season. Robert Snodgrass penned a three-year deal from relegated Norwich City for a fee of £7 million to add much needed bite to the midfield.
22-year-old winger Tom Ince also joined the Tigers however any fee will be decided by a tribunal after failing to agree a compensation fee with Blackpool. Scottish international capped left-back Andrew Robertson moved to the KC Stadium for £2.85 million from Dundee United, with the 20-year-old earning rave reviews in the Scottish Premiership. Harry Maguire made the step up to the Premier League from Sheffield United in a deal worth £2.5 million.
Good Start A Must
Hull will need to start the new Premier League season well and have a winnable opening five games against QPR (A), Stoke (H), Aston Villa (A), West Ham (H) and Newcastle (A) The Tigers must collect at least three wins with Man City (H), Crystal Palace (H), Arsenal (A) and Liverpool (A) all to follow. However their progression throughout Europe will not doubt determine the outcome of some of their fixtures in the league.
The East Yorkshire club will want to avoid the dreaded “second season” syndrome after a whole host of players exceeded expectations last season. The club largely rely on a British spine to the team and if they perform together coupled with Nikica Jelavic finding form a 14th placed finish is a real possibility. One of the greatest strengths is the adaptability the side has which has often seen Steve Bruce switch between a 3-5-2 and a 4-4-2 formation both bringing success last season.
The sense of camaraderie is also clear at the club from the team to the supporters, this will also play a big part in their seasonal aspirations. With the name change debacle plaguing much of the previous year it has seen fans grow closer together and resulted in the forming of the City Till We Die fan group.
The Egyptian Focus
With Bruce opting to sign Tom Ince and having a fully-fit Robbie Brady at his disposal where does this leave Ahmed Elmohamady? An ever-present last season, Elmo made the right wing-back slot his own becoming a player the manager could rely on game after game. If Hull do opt to play a 3-5-2 system I’d expect the Egyptian to take the right wing-back spot but face stern competition from Liam Rosenior, who has proved just as dependable when called upon. Should the Tigers switch to a 4-4-2 it would again see Elmo facing a battle for a starting berth from the likes of Ince, Aluko and Brady. Steve Bruce should once again put his faith in the 26-year-old for the beginning of the campaign but if results don’t go their way changes could be afoot.
The Europa League will test the squad depth should the Tigers progress to the group stages of the competition but I still see on paper four or five teams who have a worse starting eleven. Avoiding relegation is again the primary objective but I’d like to think a 15th placed finish is achievable providing key players such as Curtis Davies, Allan McGregor and Tom Huddlestone stay fit for the majority of the season.