Hull flying high, but unable to enjoy the ride
First to the good news: Hull City have broken their club record signing for a second time in five months, signing a centre-forward with a somewhat proven Premier League pedigree for a sum that could eventually rise up to 7.5 million pounds.
Nikica Jelavic, lured from Everton with the promise of a World Cup platform here in East Yorkshire, is the striker City have cried at night for. Imposing, forceful and, above all else, clinical, he has been seen as the missing piece of the jigsaw in Steve Bruce’s plans.
And the positivity did not end there, either. No sooner was Jelavic settling into life with his new teammates, along came West Brom forward Shane Long, signed in a deal worth a reported 6.5 million pounds. Just like his new strike partner at the KC Stadium, Long comes armed with a CV that details experience in the Premier League and on the international stage.
Together the pair will cost City somewhere in the region of 14 million pounds. Or, as Bruce put it, a “colossal” amount. Throw in wages over the duration of two three-and-a-half year contracts and there is unlikely to be change from 30 million pounds. It is a loud statement of intent from a side newly-promoted last summer. Were some not so jealous, relegation rivals might well doff their cap in appreciation.
Bruce resembled the cat that got the cream ahead of Saturday’s trip to Norwich City. After scouring the market high and low over the last 12 months, suffering one misfortune after another in his pursuit of fresh attacking blood, he now has two centre-forwards he can depend on around the bend and down the final straight towards survival. As he accepted, City’s chances of a second season in the top-flight just got a whole lot better.
The fact supporters of both Everton and West Brom appear happy with their returns suggests City may have been forced to pay marginally over the odds in a notoriously difficult January window, but proven quality will always come at a premium. Jelavic, in particular, has a prolific streak once his tail is up, while Long has a canny reputation for leading the line.
But, and it was an awkward but, it has not all been sweetness and light at the KC Stadium this week. In keeping with City’s season there had to be a dark lining to this silver cloud.
The provocative words of owner and chairman Assem Allam, who reiterated his threat to quit the club “within 24 hours” if he does not get approval from the Football Association for a name change to Hull Tigers, stole all the headlines away from the heartening captures of Jelavic and Long.
The reaction was predictably damning. Supporters groups have called Allam’s rhetoric an “empty threat” and a “crude attempt at blackmail,” while Stan Collymore, the former professional turned pundit, was indignant. A positive news story was turned sour and, not for the first time this season, City had become the talk of the Premier League for all the wrong reasons.
Regardless of your viewpoint -- and every poll conducted suggests more opposition than support -- that is the shame of all this. City quite simply have never had it so good but the journey is proving too uncomfortable for some to enjoy the ride. That cannot be right.
A resolution to the name change saga will not be delivered until April, when the FA’s Council have the final say, and Bruce must first ensure this will be a Premier League club in 2014-15 irrespective of what it is called.
January has been decreed a huge success in the transfer market and now the same must extend to results. Either side of the FA Cup date with Southend next weekend, City travel to Norwich and Crystal Palace for two of the more inviting away games the Premier League has to offer.
Victory in either would be a huge lift for Bruce’s men, while two draws would be anything but a disaster given their current cushion of five points on the bottom three. Defeat, though, would inevitably bring a wobble.
For all their apparent safety from 10th position, a poor end to the month would see City begin February with doubts creeping in. Although the start of the season was excellent, it is now one win in eight and three wins in 15. An upward spike is needed in that run of form and Bruce will hope he has found just the men to inspire it.