Premier League survival and a trip to Wembley, what more could a newly promoted side ask for? Last season’s FA Cup finalists Hull City must be pleased with the result of their season, even if it did end in disappointment.
Manager Steve Bruce puts it best, when he said in his first pre-match press conference: “I don’t think anything changes. I sat here this time last year and said that we have to stay in the Premier League. We’re now going into the second season and we’ve never lasted for longer than that so that is the challenge now.”
Survival is key to The Tigers. Whilst they may not have a similar cup run to serve as a distraction to their Premier League ambitions, they may well have to juggle a Europa League campaign if they come through their play off against Belgian side Lokeren. If so, the demands of playing regular midweek football is something that might stifle Steve Bruce’s squad. Last year, Hull relied on a very strong start in the league (losing 14 of their 21 matches after Christmas) and if they are hoping to rely on another strong start, they may be found wanting towards the end of the season.
In the transfer market, Hull have been far from dormant. Selling Shane Long for a reported £12million to Southampton after buying him six months earlier for just £7m is a great piece of business. They have also managed to sign Jake Livermore on a permanent deal from Tottenham after forging an impressive midfield partnership with Tom Huddlestone. Adding big names Robert Snodgrass and Tom Ince alongside lower profile Harry Maguire and Andrew Robertson will help bolster the squad. The former two hopefully making a meaningful impact for Steve Bruce’s side. One does have to wonder whether this will be enough to ensure they are able to compete in the Premier League again with the potential hindrance of European football. You only need look at Swansea last season to see how midweek games can really make league form suffer.
However, when found wanting, Steve Bruce was not happy to sit idly by and try the same thing over and over. He was regularly tinkering with his line up to combat individual teams, and a manager who is flexible can be worth its weight in gold for Premier League survival. Beyond this, Hull has been shown they are willing to spend if needed, with the £15million splurge on Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long potentially securing their survival last year. This perhaps shows that whilst their squad may not look complete at the moment, changes are always able to be made if there is a need for it. The downside to that is, that there probably will be a need for it.
For me, it all rests on how Hull approach the Europa League. I do dislike when clubs (largely from England) neglect the Europa League as a second rate competition, but when the financial gains are so heavily weighted towards the Premier League, sometimes it becomes a necessity. If the Hull management are able to keep their squad fresh, I feel they should scrape by. If not, it could become a very scrappy and nervous season for many Tigers fans.