Club Focus – Hull City – There are no favours in the Premier League

Hull City’s vital win over Fulham last weekend at the KC stadium has been somewhat marred by the imminent formal complaint by fellow Premier League strugglers West Ham United over Roy Hodgson’s team selection.

Hammers chairman David Sullivan believes Hodgson fielded a weakened team to face Hull last weekend, in turn giving the home side an advantage. Bobby Zamora, Damien Duff, Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu and Aaron Hughes didn’t feature at the KC stadium. Striker Zamora didn’t travel to East Yorkshire as it was thought he was suffering from illness while Etuhu and Hughes occupied the bench. Murphy and Duff on the other hand were notable absentees, but Hodgson has defended his selection. Wolves were slapped with a hefty fine earlier this season for fielding a weakened team against Manchester United as part of a Premier League ruling that states all teams must field the strongest team available to them. The punishment was largely criticised at the time various people in football and Wolves boss Mick McCarthy has backed Fulham over this recent complaint from West Ham.

Ironically it was Hull’s team selection that was the home supporters major concern before kick off. City were without defenders Bernard Mandy, Andy Dawson, Anthony Gardner, Kamala Zayatte and Liam Cooper as well as midfielder Stephen Hunt and strikers Amr Zaki and Caleb Folan. Although Fulham admittedly didn’t field their strongest team, Hull were unable to due to injuries. It is arguable that on paper the Cottagers squad was still stronger than the players at Ian Dowie’s disposal. Perhaps Hull won the game because they played better than their opposition and not because they were without certain players. All 11 of Fulham’s players that started the game have represented their country at international level, earning caps at both senior and Under 21 level.

Clint Dempsey, a USA international and Hungarian international Zoltan Gera led the line for Fulham, both were on target in the 4-1 over Juventus in the Europa League less than two weeks earlier. Welsh winger Simon Davies and Bjorn Helge Riise were used on the wings while the midfield pairing of Nothern Ireland international Chris Baird and South African Kagisho Dikgacoi were used in the centre of the park. On loan Aston Villa man Nick Shorey was used at right back while Fulham regular Paul Koncheskey was at left back. Manchester United bound Chris Smalling and the ever impressive Brede Hangeland were the centre back pairning. Combined, Fulham’s starting 11 had 426 senior and Under 21 caps between them while Hull’s starting line had 183, with 112 of those belonging to Kevin Kilbane alone.

When it comes down to it, Hull wanted the win more than Fulham did last Saturday. They played better than their opponents and deservedly won a hard fought game. No doubt Roy Hodgson would have believed his selected side were good enough beat City on the day which makes West Ham’s appeal all the more ridiculous. Hull now travel to the Britannia stadium this weekend to face Stoke City. The Potters won automatic promotion from the Championship the same season as the Tiger’s gained promotion through the play offs which has created a small rivalry between the two teams. Since then the two clubs have gone their separate ways and Tony Pulis has managed to turn his side into a mid table Premier League club has Hull continue to struggle. To come away with anything from the game will be a tall order as even the biggest clubs have found out themselves, both side saw out a draw in last season fixture and the home side took the spoils at the KC stadium earlier this campaign.

Andy Dawson looks set to return in time for the clash as does youngster Liam Cooper, Bernard Mendy and Caleb Folan. The latter was expected to start against Fulham after his shock goal scoring return to the side against Portsmouth but was ruled out through an injury picked up in training. Fagan was used up front along side Altidore in the absence of Folan and impressed greatly, getting on the score sheet in the process. The former Derby County forwards performance will no doubt see him keep his place alongside the American with Folan likely to make the bench. Stephen Hunt could return from an injury that has kept him out of action for over a month but the winger is due for tests on his foot to get to the bottom the persistent problem.

A win for Hull would give everyone at the club a massive boost and the current turmoil surrounding West Ham could play into the hands of Dowie’s survival hopes.

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