By Niall McGlone
It has been a big week for Hull City, more so off the pitch rather than on it. The clubs allegations against former chairman Paul Duffen has attracted national media attention and could perhaps affect the team’s focus, not least Phil Brown’s, who had a close relationship with his former boss.
The upcoming home game against Wolves could be a season defining moment and one that the Tigers feel they can and must win in front of their own fans. The team should head into the game in a confident mood despite the 4-0 away defeat to Manchester United this past weekend. The squad will be particularly boosted by the return of talisman Jimmy Bullard and new loan signing Amr Zaki.
The loan move for Zaki has generally been met with praise by the fans and it gives the team something they have been lacking up until now; a proven Premier League striker. The Egyptian international notched up an impressive 10 goals in 29 appearances for Wigan last season – 6 more than Hull’s recognised strike force has managed between them so far this season. However, despite his undoubted talent, Zaki comes with a controversial reputation. After failing to return to Wigan from international duty on numerous occasions he was slated by then Wigan boss Steve Bruce who in turn declined to offer the player a permanent contract. Zaki also made the headlines after he rejected Portsmouth earlier this season, citing the number of Israelis at the club for his reason for turning down their loan offer. His reputation has left some fans weary of which Amr Zaki will pull on the Hull City shirt, but both the chairman and manager feel that bringing the striker in on loan is a risk worth taking.
The return of Jimmy Bullard for the weekend clash against Wolves is hugely significant for the team as they go into the game needing a win to aid their fight against relegation. Bullard was the heart of the Hull City team when he returned earlier in the season and as a result picked up the November Player of the Month award from the Premier League. The 31-year-old is capable of dictating the play and a midfield-striker partnership with Zaki is something the fans will be relishing and something that Wolves will no doubt be wary of.
The loan move for Zaki appears to be the only bit of business for the club in the January transfer window as Vladimir Weiss opted for a loan move to Bolton after Phil Brown admitted he was interested in the Manchester City winger. The current financial state of the club has left the Brown with little funds to work with. Chairman Adam Pearson made it clear that it would be extremely unlikely that anyone would move to the KC Stadium on a permanent deal and that cutting squad numbers was the priority.
A loan move for out of favour Daniel Cousin seemed to be on the cards after the player’s agent claimed a deal had been struck with QPR and that the Gabon international would move out on loan once his involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations had ended. However, the deal was conducted under former QPR boss Paul Hart and the move could now be in doubt after his resignation after just five games in charge. Many fans will be hoping to see the back of Caleb Folan during the transfer window, the Republic of Ireland international offered very little to Hull’s attacking line early in the season and was shipped out to Middlesborough on a three month loan deal. The striker suffered a torn hamstring after just one appearance for the Championship side and despite Brown offering him a clean slate upon his return to Hull, the 27-year-old has yet to make the first team bench.
The club will also be looking to rid the squad of both Peter Halmosi and Bryan Hughes, the latter was not even given a squad number at the start of the current season but still earns a reported £16,000 a week. Nathan Doyle made his loan move to Barnsley permanent earlier in the window but Pearson will be hoping to negotiate more deals for the teams other out of favour players. Meanwhile Hull City will be looking to block out any distractions of the clubs current financial woes and the imminent court case with former chairman Paul Duffen as they head into the potential six-pointer with Wolves on Saturday.