Hull City AFC

Key player: Richie Smallwood

A failure of many relegated Championship sides is to be shrewd in the transfer market and hope that their stature as a club will drag them back up the leagues. We’ve recently seen Sunderland splash out in order to drive themselves back up the Football League but this has not worked to a great extent.

However, the Tigers have recruited cleverly, most notably with the signing of Richie Smallwood. In him, they have found themselves the perfect midfield general to charge a promotion push. Smallwood naturally operates as a holding midfielder and was instrumental for Blackburn Rovers in their bid to return to the Championship upon the first time of asking. 

See the whole League One Season Preview 2020/21

Manager: Grant McCann

Despite Grant McCann’s failure in the Championship he has had success elsewhere in his career, most notably at Doncaster Rovers. In 2018, he took Doncaster to the play-off semi-finals playing an exciting brand of football and lost out on penalties to the subsequently promoted Charlton Athletic.

McCann operates some would say stubbornly with a 4-2-3-1 system which sees him play with a tall striker who is good in the air (Tom Eaves), we saw him previously operate with something similar at Doncaster Rovers with John Marquis. McCann is seemingly a good tactician but his lack of merit for his effort is somewhat worrying as the manager is yet to see much success in terms of silverware. 

Danger man: Tom Eaves

Tom Eaves is a name familiar to any Football League fan as his robust style saw him find great success with Gillingham. The forward operates as a target man but also has the necessary technical ability to turn his man when needed. Eaves will be vital for Hull this year as they look to mount their push for a first time return to the second tier of English football.

Eaves is another example of an experienced League One player in the Hull City squad which will only benefit the recently relegated side. The Liverpudlian’s move to Hull City so far hasn’t quite worked out as he would have expected, but by returning to his old stomping ground of League One it is likely we will see him regularly featuring on the score sheet once again. Eaves is an injury doubt for the season opener at Gillingham but the forward will almost certainly have a positive impact after his return. 

Last season: 24th in the Championship

Despite a positive start to the season, Hull City suffered a catastrophic ending, culminating with a 6-game losing run which included an 8-0 demolishing by Wigan Athletic. Unlike their relegated colleagues, Hull suffered demotion from the second tier on the pitch instead of a result of financial like the Athletics of Charlton and Wigan.

Despite an impressive start which saw them reside in the top half of the table, all this turned upside down in January. They sold their best players but, after Hull won their first game of the year on January 1st against Sheffield Wednesday, they would not see another 3 points until July 2nd where they defeated relegation candidates Middlesbrough. Despite that victory, that was the only win they managed during the second half of the campaign.

Key transfer: Greg Docherty

We have previously spoken about the fact that Grant McCann is building a roster of experienced League One players and despite being only 23 years-of-age Greg Docherty enters the fray with a level of experience somewhat greater than his age. Docherty originally made a name for himself in Scotland with Hamilton Academical where he featured 94 times, his form earned him a move to Ibrox and Glasgow Rangers.

The midfielder was subsequently sent out on loan to Shrewsbury Town. This is where the midfielder started to make a name for himself in the English game, Docherty developed a reputation as a hard-working box-to-box midfielder who also had an eye for goal. The Scotsman bagged 7 goals that year and was instrumental in that Shrewsbury side avoiding relegation. Hull City needed a new box to box midfielder and they have filled that void with great success and there is no doubt in my mind that Docherty will be one to watch next year.

Target: Promotion

With Hull City only recently being a Premier League team, they will be looking to bounce back on the first time of asking. With their roster of players there is no reason why they cannot. I detailed Greg Docherty as their key signing but in fact they have been very clever in the transfer market and I could have picked a handful of different people for that role.

Hull’s fans might not realise, but I think they’re favourites to go up. Yet, as we have seen in the past, they might not be able to handle the pressure. Will they become yet another Sunderland, Ipswich, Sheffield United or Sheffield Wednesday who have become seemingly stuck in the third tier of English football for prolonged spells.

Opposition view

(provided by Hull City fan Rich)

After last seasons capitulation I could barely look at anything to do with Hull City for a few weeks. But something changed we started recruiting for the upcoming season. When I say recruiting I mean actual sensible transfers decisions for once.

We needed a defensive midfielder – Richie Smallwood

We needed a a midfielder to link play from defence to attack – Greg Docherty

We had no right backs – enter Lewie Coyle & Josh Emmanuel.

I don’t expect this season to be easy but I do expect us to finish in the top half and even make a fist of it in the playoffs. I see the season starting steadily with a few bumps in the road but we’ll keep grinding and picking the points up.

I feel McCann will be more prepared especially with the players coming in. He needs a good start, a win against Sunderland in the League Cup helped but we need to win come Saturday as the fans are still hurting after last season and with the owners not selling up any time soon he’s their main target if results don’t go well.


Previous: Gillingham Next: Ipswich Town


League One Season Preview 2020/21