How does Hull City team of 2013 compare to Phil Brown's promotion squad?
Brad Rial is an 18-year-old journalism student from Hull. He is a season ticket holder at the KC and has been to around 200 Hull City games.
For any Hull City fan at Andy Dawson’s 2008 reunion event on Saturday night, it was an opportunity to relive and remember a remarkable season. Few will ever forget the sight of Dean Windass’ iconic goal which earned the club promotion to the Premier League at Wembley, and the rollercoaster journey that followed.
Just a few hours prior to the event though, the current City side suffered a humbling 4-1 defeat at Bolton Wanderers. Despite this, they have the chance to eclipse that famous 2008 side by gaining promotion automatically. With an impressive 62 points gathered from 34 games, only goal difference separates them from the top two. It begs the question: where does this side stand in comparison with the promotion winning side of 2008?
It is important to remember that the side of five years ago far exceeded any expectations set at the start of that season. This season however, there was a genuine belief that the side would at least finish in the play-off places. This was in no small part down to the appointment of Steve Bruce, a manager with vast top flight experience. In this sense, it makes Phil Brown’s achievement of 2008 even more remarkable; given it was only his second managerial job.
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Bruce has certainly used the transfer market to his advantage. Indeed, seven of the eleven that started in the defeat to Bolton were Bruce signings.
You could argue that the side of five years ago was much more settled than it is now. Then, the back five of Myhill, Ricketts, Turner, Brown and Dawson practically picked itself. That cannot be said of this season though, with three goalkeepers used before we’d even reached Christmas. Competition for places, along with frequent injury problems, has meant that James Chester has been the only mainstay in the Tigers’ back three this season. Despite this, City have the fourth best defence in the division, emphasising the strength in depth they have at the back.
Given that the two sides operate different systems, it is difficult to compare each player in each position directly. One thing that does stand out in the current crop though, is the lack of a real leader. Ian Ashbee was the epitome of the word in 2008, scoring vital goals in wins against Barnsley and Crystal Palace towards the end of the season. Although Robert Koren and Jack Hobbs are excellent footballers in their own right, they don’t quite match Ashbee’s presence.
Up front, the partnership of Dean Windass and Fraizer Campbell proved fruitful, with the duo scoring thirty goals between them. With Caleb Folan proving a valuable asset from the bench, City didn’t find goalscoring a problem five years ago. This season though, it remains their Achilles heel. Jay Simpson and Sone Aluko started the season brilliantly, but with Simpson failing to find the net since November 6th, and Aluko seemingly out for the rest of the season, goals have been hard to come by. Gedo has made an immediate impact since he arrived on loan, but it is a big ask for him to keep it up until the end of the season. The absence through injury of Matty Fryatt compounds the problem, with many fans believing that he’d flourish in this system.
That City can afford to replace the likes of long-term absentees such as Fryatt, and also Joe Dudgeon, highlights the strength in depth this squad has compared to the 2008 side. Players such as Seyi Olofinjana and Andy Dawson – such a key figure five years ago – struggle to even make the bench, and you suspect the whole squad will be called upon during the next 12 games. City have amassed 11 more points this season than at the same stage in 2008, and even though the league is arguably much more competitive this time around, they have given themselves every chance of reaching the top flight once more.