Squad size issues at Hull
Adam Pearson isn’t one of Football Chairmanship’s more shy and retiring individuals and his programme notes in advance of yesterday’s somewhat unfortunate failure to beat Reading at the KC Stadium were illuminating indeed.
Keeping cards close to one’s chest is a piece of advice unbeloved by this executive and his confirmation of the recently leaked intention to spend £2.5 million of Hull City Football Club’s money in the early days of January will have done Julian Assange proud.
No names were mentioned but all the pointers suggest that Matty Fryatt and Aaron McLean are on their way to the Sunshine Band stadium from Leicester and Peterborough respectively. But, before we react to this significant likely business, it’s perhaps worth reminding ourselves whom the Tigers already have on their books.
Missing from the starting eleven yesterday were ex-England squad members Nicky Barmby and Jimmy Bullard (both of whom were to join the action from the bench), Premier League Years mainstays Caleb Folan, Craig Fagan and Richard Garcia, Peruvian and Irish veterans Nobby Solano and Kevin Kilbane, usual first choice centre back Anthony Gerrard and the hotly touted youngster Tom Cairney – and that’s without taking into account recently departed loanees, Daniel Ayala and Simon Jordan’s favourite youth, John Bostock.
That’s an array of wage-eating talent that would stretch the most elastic of parachutes and no wonder Pearson’s talk of “our now financially secure future” seemed nervously expressed.
But what of the XI that did start the game?
Hull surprised me with their verve and ready movement, dominating the first half utterly. Ex-Royals Liam Rosenior and James Harper both seemed to have a point to prove and both stepped up well, the former blotting out the threat of Jobi McAnuff and the latter curling in a beaut. Paul McShane and Kamil Zayatte were combative and effective at centre half and if the experienced Andy Dawson occasionally had to resort to foul means to negate the threat of the flying Jimmy Kébé, the Hull back line enjoyed a heartening hour and a half.
Alongside Harper in central midfield, the evergreen Ian Ashbee mopped up without fuss, receiving deserved acclaim from the crowd, and Robert Koren once again showed that his departure from West Bromwich Albion in July was perhaps prematurely engineered.
But the two Tigers who impressed most on the day were Cameron Stewart and Jamie Devitt.
The former was a livewire, menacing the Reading defence continually and confirming his recent fine form. On loan from Manchester United, the Ronaldo comparisons may be trite and 19 may already be too old an age for him to break through at the OT Stadium, but he looked cranium and shoulders above the company here – belying a recent spell at Yeovil which he admits himself “didn’t work out.”
As for Devitt, postings at Darlington, Shrewsbury and Grimsby and the ignominy of being relegated three times in one season have obviously strengthened his character and he showed a lot of maturity for his age on the left side of midfield. It would be disappointing to see his chances, and those of the aforementioned Cairney, restricted by a misguided moneybags transfer policy.
Hull were denied in the end after a mistake from another loan star: Arsenal custodian Vito Mannone flapping horrendously at a cross and thus extinguishing the memory of a penalty save from Shane Long. Heads went down towards the end, but the Humberside club’s eight match unbeaten run is no accident – it’s a game for eleven players though.