A brilliant ten-game unbeaten stretch lasting from November through to January has well and truly lifted Hull City away from danger. What’s the mood like in the camp?
Positive, but with a slight hint of frustration that, having got themselves into possible contention for the Play-Offs, they’ve dropped some points recently. They dropped a couple of points against Rotherham United and lost to both Derby County and Blackburn Rovers. If they were going to push for the Play-Offs, they probably needed to get more out of those three games than they did. That said, they were bottom of the league on 6 October and they aren’t going to go down; they’ve probably already got enough points to stay up. That has to be considered a major achievement given all the issues that Nigel Adkins has had to deal with.
Two highly experienced figures were brought in last month, with Marc Pugh and Liam Ridgewell joining from AFC Bournemouth and Portland Timbers respectively. Were the pair recruited with one eye on a Play-Off charge?
In January, the club were very determined to put themselves in a position to contend for the Play-Offs. That meant keeping the two star men, Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicki, while trying to add two or three players as well. They didn’t have a lot of luck; they weren’t able to sign a striker and they wanted an experienced defender but had a couple of setbacks on that front. They signed Ridgewell on deadline day, he was a free agent after leaving the MLS, and Pugh gives them that extra bit of depth out wide. So yes, those signings were made with a view to pushing for the Play-Offs, but I think if they were seriously going to do that, they needed a couple more.
Jarrod Bowen has undoubtedly been The Tigers’ star man over the past two seasons. Having already beaten last term’s tally of 15 goals, surely it’s only a matter of time until he’s snapped up by a Premier League club?
It’s very possible because he’s had a fantastic season and has scored all kinds of goals. When you are a young English player and get as many goals as he has - playing in a wide position, not up front - then teams are going to look at you. There’s been talk of Tottenham Hotspur, Leicester City and others keeping an eye on him this season, and while nothing was likely to happen in January, come the summer there may well be one or two who take a closer look. We saw James Maddison leave Norwich City a year ago to go to Leicester for £20m; whether Bowen warrants that kind of money, I’m not sure. He may be worth a few million less than that, but I think there’s a very good chance that teams like Leicester and others in the same area of the Premier League will be very interested in signing him.
How is Adkins likely to set up his side at Griffin Park?
I think he’ll continue with what has worked for them, for the most part. That will mean either one of Fraizer Campbell or Chris Martin down the middle and then Grosicki and Bowen out wide. He will opt for a midfield three - Marcus Henriksen the captain will be in there. Jackson Irvine has played very, very well and will either play just behind Bowen or in central midfield. If he plays in central midfield, you’d imagine Evandro will also play, but if Irvine plays just behind the striker then Kevin Stewart could feature – a player who has really turned his season around. You’d imagine Eric Lichaj and Todd Kane will continue in the full-back berths, so then you’ve got to pick from the centre-halves: Jordy De Wijs Reece Burke, Robbie McKenzie and Liam Ridgewell.
Hull won the first meeting 2-0 in mid-December; what’s your score prediction for the game?
It’s a difficult one because Hull don’t really draw that many games, yet they are going through a patch where you just don’t really know what to expect – they are very unpredictable at present. I could sit on the fence and say it’ll be 1-1, but with where Brentford are and their recent results, The Bees might win this 2-1.
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