It was quite an up-and-down season for Hull City as they returned to the Premier League under Steve Bruce. If you ask the average neutral, they’d probably guess that Hull finished close to the middle of the pack given the consistent “pleasant surprise” drumbeat in the press. As it turns out, they finished 16th but were buoyed by an unexpected run to the FA Cup final. Still, they did avoid relegation and rode a very specific transfer strategy – buying tried and true Premier League talent – to a second crack at the top flight.
Predicted Finish: Given that people are rarely inspired by the same old names (i.e., the guys Steve Bruce recruited), Hull City were generally predicted to go straight back down.
Quick Review: Things looked extremely good about 10 minutes into the FA Cup final with Steve Bruce’s side up 2-0 and a second season in the Premier League already secured. They eventually capitulated to a superior Arsenal side but that didn’t undo some great progress in 2013-14. The signings of Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, Curtis Davies, and Allan McGregor all worked out very nicely last summer. Going from strength to strength in the transfer market, the January signings of Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic both paid dividends for the Tigers despite being widely panned in the press. The big negative for Hull City involved long term injuries to Robbie Brady, Sone Aluko and Robert Koren – three men charged with providing creativity in midfield.
Departures/Likely Departures: The departures this summer are very much outside the core of players who contributed last season with all of those leaving doing so on free transfers and headed back down to the Championship where they are more prepared to contribute. Notables include Matthew Fryatt, Conor Henderson, Abdoulaye Faye, and Robert Koren.
Needs: More of the same. Steve Bruce needs to go back to his playbook and bring in 3 or 4 new signings that are ready to contribute right away as creative midfielders and in defense.
Center Back: Curtis Davies was a revelation for Hull City after washing out in his previous Premier League stint. Finding an equally capable partner and maybe even an older utility player who can give Davies a rest would be a huge boost for the thin central defensive corps.
Attacking Midfield: The early season highlights for Hull City came largely through Robbie Brady heroics. When Brady was ruled out for most of the season with a hernia injury that appeared to be mishandled Hull City was at a loss for creative solutions.
One Significant Upgrade: As is the case with many mid-table and mid-table aspiring clubs, there is a lot of “solid” on the roster and not a lot of “exceptional”. In addition to shoring up the two positions above, Hull City need to bring in one player that is a significant step above his replacement. Mid-table clubs without massive stockpiles of money generally can’t dictate position for a player like this but like West Brom getting Romelu Lukaku on loan or Newcastle acting shrewdly to acquire Yohan Cabaye for an affordable price in the transfer market, Hull City need to do SOMETHING to add a significantly better-than-average Premier League talent to the mix. If that player were an outside back or a winger, that would be even better.
Summer So Far: It appeared that Hull City were the favorites for Jolean Lescott before he eventually chose West Brom which is a shame because he seemed like exactly the kind of partner that could compliment Curtis Davies at the core of a very good mid-table defense. Since losing out, Hull City have moved further up the field and recruited Robert Snodgrass from Norwich, Tom Ince as a free agent, and made Jake Livermore’s loan a permanent move. All solid moves with Ince possibly being able to evolve into that above average talent. Steve Bruce does now need to turn his attention back to the defense where he has been linked with another surplus Manchester City defender in the person of Micah Richards and another former Spur in the form of Michael Dawson either of whom would be strong additions to the back line.