I can’t imagine many amongst football followers would have predicted Leicester City stemming their apparently inevitable slide toward relegation, and hauling themselves away from it with a remarkable nine match unbeaten run that instead left the Tigers returning to the Championship after two seasons in the top flight
Strangely enough for a relegated team, a predicted exodus of talent was not incoming, and Hull managed to retain the key players that has seen them, along with table toppers Brighton, set the pace in the race for promotion.
Curtis Davies, captain and much loved centre back, scored the game securing second goal in the 2-0 victory over Preston, a game in which record signing Abel Hernandez also scored. Seasoned players like Michael Dawson and Allan McGregor kept things tight at the back while Chuba Akpom is already looking a talented prospect alongside Hernandez up front.
As Hull maintained their 100% record at the KC Stadium, Steve Bruce’s main challenge this year will be to get back into the Premier League at the first time of asking. He will be delighted that the only player from his relegated squad that has departed is James Chester, now at West Brom, will questions continue to snipe as to the futures of Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone.
This lack of transfer activity indicates Bruce has faith in his side as it is. To an extent, this is a positive. Davies, MacGregor, Dawson are all players with Premier League pedigree, and with the experience among them, they effectively form the core of the Tigers side. However, they along with Hernandez, David Meyler and Andy Robertson amongst others were all regulars in the side that were relegated in May. Whilst at the minute they are giving the impression that they can navigate their way out of the Championship, Bruce must then begin to question whether these performers, so consistent and loyal to him over the past two years, will be able to keep the Tigers in the Premier League for the forseeable future.
Bruce himself, despite relegation, remains in the hotseat. An anomaly these days for a relegated side. Hassem Allam obviously believes he is the right an to bring them back to the fore of English football – a view shared by many. It is strange to think that despite, the relegation suffered by his side, it was a mere 12 months previously that Hull pushed Arenal all the way in the FA Cup final before succumbing to that strike from Aaron Ramsey. This indicates how far Bruce has led them before, and how far he could well lead them again. He has set his philosophy out at the KC Stadium, and seen his players embrace it. In some respects, they were unlucky to fall as they did last season, but in others, Bruce must take the flak for not plugging the issue of a distinct lack of a goal threat earlier than the January signing of Hernandez, which ultimately didn’t pay the dividends he was hoping for.
Despite a slip at The Valley against Charlton – where a number of cluvbs are finding difficulty in coming away with more than a defeat – Bruce’s side look ready to do battle again, and will look to be in the top 2 when May comes around. From what they are producing on the pitch, this is looking very likely.