Perhaps the most exciting result for Hull City fans over the last three games has been the emergence of teenage midfielder Tom Cairney. Cairney was thrust into the Premier League by Hull boss Phil Brown in his sides crucial home tie with fellow strugglers Wolves.
Despite the significance of the occasion and the pressure on both sides to perform, the 19-year-old put in a display that defied his age and experience. Cairney held firm in the centre of Hull’s midfield, often dictating his sides play. The teenager rarely looked hurried and spread the ball across the pitch in the mould of injured Hull talisman Jimmy Bullard. The youngster deservedly walked away from his Premier League debut with the man of the match award.
Many would have forgiven Phil Brown for resting Cairney in Hull’s midweek game against the league leaders Chelsea but the Hull boss showed faith in the former Leeds trainee and handed him yet another Premier League start. Not many players can outshine the midfield prowess of Frank Lampard, but Cairney arguably did just that as Hull held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw at the KC Stadium. The former Scotland under-19 international was allowed time on the ball and he yet again passed the ball around the park with seemingly little effort and went home with his second man of the match award in as many games.
The Nottingham-born midfielder didn’t have quite the same impact in Hull’s 2-1 win over big-spending Manchester City but was nevertheless more prominent than England international Gareth Barry. Cairney’s performances have earned him praise from midfield partner George Boateng who believes the youngster can be a future England international himself. “Tom is a player who is going to get a lot of publicity in the next few weeks from the press and from our fans,” Boateng said. “I hope he stays grounded because he’s a tremendous talent and if he works on his game, he’ll be an England international – he’s that good,” Boateng added.
Boateng himself was in sensational form in Hull’s win over Manchester City and he capped his performance with a screaming volley to secure the three points for his side. The Dutch man rolled back the years, putting in a strong display and the former Middlesbrough player had a hand in Altidore’s opener as well as getting on the score sheet himself. The performances of Cairney and Boateng in the centre of the midfield has meant that Hull haven’t missed playmaker Jimmy Bullard or Nigerian international Seyi Olifinjana over their last three home games. However, Cairney will face a real test of his character as Hull now play three games away from home on the bounce. He appears to have enough to cope with the pressure but only time will tell and with the return of Olifinjana from the Africa Cup of Nations, Brown has more options in the centre of the park.
New loan signing Amr Zaki has now made three substitute appearances but has yet to make any real impact on Hull’s attacking line. The Egyptian saw little of the ball on his debut after being brought on in the 2-2 draw with Wolves, it was a similar story in the following two matches as Hull looked to hold onto what they had against both Chelsea and Manchester City. Brown will no doubt be reluctant to change his strike partnership of Jan Venegoor of Hesselink and Jozy Altidore who looked to have formed a great awareness and understanding of each other. The two combined for Altidore’s first Premier League goal against Manchester City, Venegoor of Hesselink holding up the ball well before teeing up the American who slotted the ball home.
Hull fans will be hoping that the USA international will now have the impetus to go on and add to his goal-scoring tally. The 20-year-old has impressed in recent games, causing problems for the oppositions back four with his direct and powerful play. Brown’s decision to finally adopt a 4-4-2 formation has proved dividends to Hull’s recent run of three games unbeaten. Previously the former Derby boss had persisted with a 4-5-1 variation with Craig Fagan up front through the middle. Fagan is generally seen as a wide right attacking option and it is here were Brown has now decided to use him to good effect. With Stephen Hunt proving to be a constant irritant to the opposition on the left flank and the previously mentioned pairing of Venegoor of Hesselink and Altidore up front, Hull now pose a real attacking threat as they look to climb the Premier League table.