The depletion of Hull City’s contingent, both on the pitch and off it, has been an unfortunate tale riddled with difficulty that has led to an assumption that come May they will be bound for the Championship. With just 14 fit players, and a fledgling caretaker manager, there was little place for optimism.
Yet Hull have taken 6 points from a possible 9, winning against champions Leicester City and on the road at Swansea City, and desperately unlucky to lose to a last minute goal against Manchester United. The 14 who remain have stood out wonderfully, and there is every possibility the man on the sidelines, the “caretaker”, could be the one to preserve their Premier League status.
Mike Phelan has spent almost the entirety of his coaching career under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson, in the role of first team coach, and then as an assistant to Ferguson during his final five years in charge. Despite having stood in for Ferguson on various interviews and post-match press conferences, he has flown in under the radar as names like Carlos Queiroz and Steve McLaren have hit headlines as managers in their own right. Now it’s Phelan’s turn.
In the most difficult of circumstances, he has kept the squad disciplined, with individuals such as the magnificent Curtis Davies and livewire striker Abel Hernandez stand out and lead by example. An international break has given Phelan time to plan his next moves, with games against Burnley and Arsenal incoming.
This transfer window was something of a late blitz for the Tigers, signing no one up until the final day, in which give new players were brought in. Ryan Mason is already a contender to start after having been in and out of the Spurs team for the past two years, while Will Keane brings youth and precocious talent to the frontline. Integrating them into the team will be a tougher prospect given Hull’s performances this season, but at least Phelan knows he has some depth to his squad.
Phelan has stood in as manager since the departure of Steve Bruce, who left after continual disagreements with the clubs board. Now it seems that the amount of time spent as Ferguson’s subordinate now counts for so much that is seen in the Tigers willingness to keep going until the very end, which very nearly got them the point the warranted against United. It would appear – certainly after his performances with the team and indeed in the transfer window – an appropriate opportunity to allow Phelan his first proper role in management.