Hull City's James Chester happy to wait on new contract
WITH 15 players out of contract at the end of the season, Steve Bruce will soon begin a process that promises to reshape his Hull City squad in 2013.
A meeting with owner Assem Allam was held on Monday to map out the potential for new deals, but it was not the future of an individual in the final year of his deal that topped Bruce's priority list.
James Chester, bound to the KC Stadium until June 2014, stands at the forefront of his manager's thoughts.
A contract offer first touted by the Tigers boss four weeks ago is still to arrive in front of the 23-year-old.
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However, having described Chester as a "wonderful young defender" with the undoubted potential to star in the Premier League, Bruce is determined to glue down the jewel in his inherited crown.
"The gaffer came to me in the first international break and told me what his thoughts were," Chester told the Mail.
"That was nice to hear and it gave me a lot of confidence, especially when you think of what he did as a player, but I'm still waiting for the club to get in contact with me.
"We're coming up to January where I'll have 18 months left but playing football is still the most important thing.
"When the talks do open we'll see where it goes from there. At the moment, there's no real rush. I'm still very happy here."
The notion of rewarding Chester with a new deal is nothing new.
Bruce's predecessor Nick Barmby had been keen to resolve the matter over the summer only for his abrupt May exit to scupper fledgling plans.
With Chester still on the same financial package as when signed from Manchester United as an unknown youngster in January 2011, an uncomfortable disparity stands between him and a host of regulars.
The defender's humility prevents any outbursts, but there is justifiable belief he has done enough to warrant due rewards.
"It seems to have gone on for a while and we don't seem to have got anywhere with it, but when the time comes we'll get down to business.
"When I came the contract I signed was more than fair for what I'd done in my career so far," said Chester.
"Since I've been here I think I've more than proved that I'm capable in this division.
"Hopefully, I can still keep improving to play in the top league so it would be nice to be rewarded with that."
Few would begrudge Chester a new deal after an outstanding 22 months.
Until a hamstring injury ruled him out of a 3-2 defeat to Blackpool earlier this month, he had started 73 of the 75 Championship games since arriving.
Only Robert Koren, who amassed 71 appearances in the same period, comes close to such a sustained influence and he was the recipient of a new two-year deal in August.
For now, Chester is happy to let his football make a case for a new deal.
A place in Bruce's starting XI at Bristol City this evening will be the 100th league start of his promising career. But for perhaps the first time in his Tigers career, Chester cannot take it as a given.
Once injury ruled him out of the games with Blackpool and Sheffield Wednesday, he was forced to settle for a place on the bench when fit again to face Ipswich last weekend.
A belated return came in a 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough on Tuesday because of an injury to Abdoulaye Faye and Chester is unwilling to let go again.
"I'm feeling good again," he said. "The hamstring was quite a big tear, but it seemed to heal quite quickly.
"It was a new experience not to be in the side but I understood the reason.
"The lads picked up a great result at Sheffield Wednesday and the motto is that you don't change a winning team. That was frustrating for me but I couldn't complain."
Just to rub salt in the wound, it was Chester's new house-mate who pinched his spot in the side.
Paul McShane, excellent upon his return to the City side over the last month, recently moved in with Chester to fill the room vacated by Cameron Stewart when joining Burnley on loan until January.
"Macca's a laugh a minute, a good lad. He cooks more than Cameron.
"It's nice to have a bit of company so we're trying to learn guitar together. He's got a lot more staying power than me, far more patience."
Staying power is a trait City have lacked as a team this season.
Despite wowing their followers with half a dozen attack-minded wins, the Tigers' advances up the table have been stifled by a handful of losses.
The latest, a 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough, was arguably the low point of a bright campaign that sees City head to Bristol City in need of a response.
Asked to sum up the opening quarter of the season, Chester said: "If you can assess the Championship then you're a genius.
"Everyone seems to be so inconsistent and if you can get on a run then you'll be right up there.
"A defeat is disappointing but if we can shake if off quickly and bounce back, we'll be right up there again."
Without a win at Ashton Gate since 1965, City travel to the south west keen to buck a long-standing trend.
Chester's homework has included a call to close pal Stewart, whose Burnley side claimed a dramatic 4-3 win at Bristol City in midweek.
He added: "Cameron's scouting report wasn't the best because he only got on for three minutes!
"They're scoring plenty but conceding a few too. Their results have shown that they can be vulnerable and with the players we've got, we can take advantage of that."