Hull City season preview

Posted by Philip Buckingham

Hull boss Steve Bruce celebrates promotion from the stands at the KC StadiumPA PhotosSteve Bruce celebrates promotion back to the Premier League.

What's changed since last season?
Conscious of retaining the feel-good factor still bubbling from promotion in May, Steve Bruce has walked a careful line between continuity and overhaul. There were the inevitable casualties - most notably Jay Simpson, Jack Hobbs and Corry Evans - but the spine of a bright, young team reassuringly remains. Eight new faces have arrived to date to address key areas. Experienced pair Allan McGregor and Steve Harper have solved a long-standing goalkeeping headache, while Curtis Davies and Maynor Figueroa are defenders who have been here before. Danny Graham, signed on a season-long loan from Sunderland, and ex-Evian man Yannick Sagbo are the new boys tasked with pepping up an attack that scored just 61 goals on the way to promotion. Oh and there's also the small matter of the club's name. Owner Assem Allam has revealed his wish to rebrand Hull City AFC as Hull City Tigers, much to the dismay of most supporters.

Key to this campaign?
A good start is imperative for any newly-promoted side and Hull City are no different. Away games at Chelsea and Manchester City inside the first month are a daunting proposition and heighten the significance of the home games against Norwich, Cardiff, West Ham, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Crystal Palace. Those first six home games all offer the chance to collect points and to boost the chance of survival the Tigers will want at least 10 points from the sequence. It's a close-knit group assembled at the KC Stadium and that togetherness will be key when the inevitable barren spells come along. Ten wins has been made the only target of Steve Bruce.

Predicted finish/realistic goal
Every bookmaker in the land has Hull City heading straight back to the Championship, but survival is not out of the question. Manager Steve Bruce has been here before and will back his experience to guide the club through a daunting campaign. Bruce's last four full seasons in the Premier League ended with finishes of 14th (2007-08) and 11th (2008-09) as Wigan boss and 13th (2009-10) and 10th (2010-11) in charge of Sunderland. Although those positions appear beyond an inexperienced group, City are no strangers to upsetting the odds. Few of their own followers dared predict promotion out of the Championship last term, but Bruce's leadership qualities delivered the runners-up spot behind Cardiff City. Lightening will need to strike twice.

Make or break season for...
Steve Bruce's popularity knows no bounds in East Yorkshire but he knows this season can repair his tarnished reputation as a Premier League boss. Much to Bruce's frustration, his sacking as Sunderland boss two years ago saw him harshly depicted as a tactical dinosaur and that leaves the 52-year-old with a point to prove in the top-flight. Only a handful of Englishmen have amassed more than Bruce's 316 games as a Premier League boss and he will be desperate to make this a season where his stock is back on the rise. Hull City supporters have every faith that can be the case after a magnificent first year in charge.

One to watch
Steve Bruce labelled Sone Aluko as the best player in the Championship last Autumn, even holding him in higher regard than Manchester United new boy Wilfried Zaha. An Achilles injury curtailed his campaign early in January, but a full pre-season has Aluko firing again. The Nigerian international undeniably boasts that little bit of stardust. Often used as a withdrawn forward, he loves to find pockets of space to turn and run at defenders. There's pace, trickery and an eye for goal also in his armoury. Although new to the Premier League, fans of the SPL know all about his brilliance. Spells with Aberdeen and Rangers were arguably the making of the man after an early rejection from hometown club Birmingham City. Another couple of youngsters new to the Premier League also warrant a mention. James Chester, a classy centre-half, and Robbie Brady, a direct and threatening winger, both took the bold step to walk away from Manchester United's youth ranks and have been rewarded with a second crack at the top-flight. The pair will not look out of their depth if their progression during last season is anything to go by.


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