Snodgrass signing only the start if Hull hope to cope with Europe
Hull City, 9/4 with Coral to be relegated from the Premier League in 2014/15, are preparing to play in Europe for the first time in their history next season. The Tigers have added Norwich City winger Robert Snodgrass to Steve Bruce’s squad for a reported fee of between £6m and £8m.
We have seen with the likes of Newcastle United and Swansea City in recent years how difficult it can be juggling domestic football with continental competitions. Neither of those sides went down when featuring in the Europa League mind, and Hull are expected to avoid the drop too as they are odds-on at 1/3 to stay up.
In Snodgrass, Bruce has a proven Premier League performer. The Scotland international, 26, has been hugely consistent in his two top-flight seasons with Norwich, netting six times in each campaign. Playing in Europe – provided Snodgrass’ new club come through two qualifying rounds – will only enhance his prospects of a starting berth for his country further.
Personal benefits for Snodgrass aside, the Tigers do have a small squad, which history shows will be stretched by the pattern of regular matchdays on Thursdays and Sundays. England cap Jake Livermore made his loan spell from Spurs permanent too, so Hull, as of 1st July, have a roster of 21 senior players to pick from.
Beaten FA Cup finalists in 2014, Bruce’s boys have largely kept continuity in terms of personnel. Only 30-somethings Robert Koren, deposed as captain in favour of Curtis Davies, and Abdoulaye Faye, a marginal figure upon their top-flight return, are notable departures.
When Hull splashed out on assembling a new strikeforce of Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long in January, the writing was on the wall for Matty Fryatt. Bruce picked him throughout their run to Wembley because the fresh faces were cup-tied. Fryatt has moved on to long-term suitors Nottingham Forest.
The international class of Jelavic and Long can take the Tigers far in Europe, but is their backup up to much? Ivorian flop Yannick Sagbo and Nigerian counterpart Sone Aluko managed three Premier League goals between them. Bruce’s punt on German attacker Nick Proschwitz has also failed to pay off, hence his loan spell at relegated Championship club Barnsley.
Midfield is looking for healthy, however, with Hull landing Livermore for keeps and the swoop for Snodgrass suggests the days of playing 3-5-2 could be over on Humberside. Bruce is now blessed with an abundance of wide options.
Republic of Ireland winger Robbie Brady will be back stronger after an injury-wrecked season, while right-sided Egypt international Ahmed Elmohamady does his best work on the offensive. There is Snodgrass’ fellow Scotsman George Boyd to consider too, who may have to play off the front to be accommodated.
Bruce has even been linked with bringing, son of former Manchester United teammate Paul, Tom Ince to the KC Stadium. The Tigers boss has his own boy Alex on the books, so why not go in for a player who showed glimpses of his burgeoning talent at Premier League level in a five-month loan spell at Crystal Palace last term?
Spurs skipper Michael Dawson may also throw in his lot with Hull, if tabloid gossip columns are accurate. The centre back, who turns 31 in November, faces an uncertain future under new Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino.
Dawson would bring European experience to the Tigers. He has 38 appearances in continental club competitions, with four-fifths of those outings coming in the Europa League and its predecessor the UEFA Cup.
Bruce junior, James Chester, skipper Davies, Maynor Figueroa and Paul McShane would all be competing with Dawson for a starting spot at the back in front of Allan McGregor. If Hull can cope with jet-setting around Europe, then what price on a top 10 finish? Coral go 9/2.