Following relegation from the Premier League, the vast majority of Hull City fans stayed behind after the 0-0 draw with Manchester United to applaud their efforts despite a long and disappointing season for the club. Louis van Gaal described it as a sight he had never before seen in European football, and praised the Tigers faithful. Even during his most testing period as Hull City manager, over the winter months when the club were in horrific form and plagued by injuries, the support for Bruce was unerring. A banner reading ‘In Bruce We Trust’ was put up at the KC Stadium, and it was fitting support for a man who most regard as the club’s greatest ever manager.
Promotion, survival, FA Cup final and European qualification all ensure that Steve Bruce has great respect in East Yorkshire and has given him time that most would not have been given in the modern game, following a miserable last 18 months in terms of results. The case for Steve Bruce remaining Hull City manager and the case for him departing the role are equally strong and plentiful. Aside from his track record at the club, Bruce has always had a tremendous record in the second tier, and should the club part companies with Bruce, they will not find a man with a better success rate in the Championship. He is also a markedly honest man. He is not a man without his failings but he admits and acknowledges them when they are identified. For this reason, as well as his success, he has developed an affinity with the clubs fans.
Given all that is written above, it is easy to see why Steve Bruce has kept his job despite a season in which most would not have lasted. It is also worth noting that Bruce forked out £42 million in the transfer window, although the figure was closer to £20 million in terms of net spend, it is still a considerable outlay for a club of Hull’s size. Furthermore, due to what I have said, I would not begrudge Bruce another season, or at least another six months, to prove his worth and take the club back to the Premier League. Deep down though, one feels as though both parties may be better off parting ways this summer.
Bruce has had a very successful career, on and off the pitch, he most certainly does not need the money and his wife supposedly thinks he is ready to have more leisure time, away from the stress and demands of football management. Looking at the man, she may have a point. Recently he has not looked a picture of health, and one wonders whether he would be better off leaving the game, despite only being 54 years of age. As for the club, they recently released Liam Rosenior, and whilst the focus from supporters and the media has been on his emotional attachment to the club, his departure also signaled major tactical repercussions.
Rosenior is as good a full-back as you are likely to find in the Championship, and him leaving suggests that the Hull City manager is remaining loyal to his 3-5-2 approach. The formation worked in Bruce’s first two seasons. Robbie Brady and Ahmed Elmohamady were tailor-made for the wing-back positions, whilst a back three made the team defensively solid and allowed Bruce to play with his favoured two strikers. This season though, Bruce recruited the likes of Hatem Ben-Arfa, Gaston Ramirez, Tom Ince and Robert Snodgrass. Unlike in previous years, the players were no longer best suited to the 3-5-2 formation, yet Bruce persisted with it.
In the Championship, even after losing the likes of Dame N’Doye, Abel Hernandez, Nikica Jelavic and others, Hull City should have one of, if not the best, squad in the division. These talented forward players should no longer be hamstrung in a conservative formation against weaker opponents. Rosenior’s release signals a worrying persistence from Bruce. Any potential new manager would inherit a gifted group of players, at that level, and should they be freed up and allowed to play their football, Hull City could flourish and return to the Premier League.
They say there is no room for sentiment in football, and perhaps they are right; but it is difficult not to with Steve Bruce. The man has done a great deal for Hull City and has always had the club’s best interests at heart. Unless the club is sold or Bruce leaves of his own accord, he will remain as manager, as the Allams have great faith in the man they appointed three years ago. I sincerely hope, not just as a Hull City fan, but also for Bruce himself, that he can turn things around, but I cannot help but feel he will persist with a negative formation which restricts the talented individuals that he himself brought to the club.
Jaap Stam dismissal could be too little too late for Reading
Jaap Stam was dismissed by the Royals earlier this week.
Reading were one penalty shootout away from the Premier League at the end of last season and it was hoped that they would go one step better to clinch promotion during this campaign.
However, it has been a disastrous season for the Royals and they currently find themselves three points above the relegation zone with eight matches to go.
Jaap Stam had retained faith from the board for his overachievement during his first year as manager, but with their position looking more and more precarious, it became untenable.
The club announced his dismissal on Wednesday in an online statement that featured the following:
“Jaap has not wavered in the time, effort and sheer determination he has put in to try to steer the team away from the position we find ourselves in. However, after careful consideration, the decision has been made that a change is now necessary.”
The Dutchman can’t complain that he wasn’t given a fair chance.
There are only eight matches remaining in the season and it has become obvious that he was no longer the right man for the job.
It was inconceivable at the start of the campaign that Reading would be battling relegation. They were a team with promotion ambitions, but 2018 has been terrible for them.
The Royals have won only one Championship match during this calendar year.
A number of draws have kept the club stuttering along, but now they are only three points above the bottom three, a decision had to be made.
Stam will look back at his time with Reading as a positive one.
He managed to surprise a lot of pundits by taking them to third position in his first season and was unlucky not to be promoted, but there are a lot of people still scratching their head at how the Royals managed to finish as high as they did.
The likes of Fulham, Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday were all seen as better teams, but something clicked for Reading and it is difficult to explain what.
Mark Taylor made an observation on Twitter using expected goals. Stam’s team massively overachieved based on that metric, which projected them as finishing 19th.
This season, the model projects them in 17th. In short, this decline in league position was predictable.
Although there are problems with expected goals, it does provide a good explanation for Reading’s decline this season.
Their results have simply returned to the mean and they are now getting the points to match their performance level.
It isn’t that they have got worse under Stam’s management, but rather that last season was the outlier.
If Reading, as a club, want to be competing for promotion, Stam wasn’t the right manager to deliver that. The underlying numbers throughout his tenure highlight that.
His side scored 112 goals and conceded 121 in the Championship during the Dutchman’s time as manager.
That isn’t a record that suggests he is good enough to lead the club back to the Premier League.
The time for dissecting Stam’s tenure and his failures isn’t now. Reading must concentrate on making the right appointment to secure their place in the Championship.
It would be a huge blow if they were to fall to the third tier for the first time since the 2001/2 season.
With only eight matches left, there is little room for error for any incoming manager. The club must hope that this decision wasn’t too little too late.
One-time Leeds United talent Chris Dawson joins Scarborough Athletic
The midfielder has struggled with injuries since leaving Leeds United.
Leeds United fans probably don’t bother themselves with the news at non-league Scarborough Athletic, but one development at the club from yesterday might have caught the eye.
Chris Dawson signed for the club earlier this week, along with former Sheffield United youngster Jorome Slew.
Speaking to the Scarborough News about the move, Dawson explained he was just happy to be playing football again:
“There were quite a few clubs (interested). But I know the manager here and I know one of the lads here and I am not really bothered about what level I play at.
“I just want to be playing football again and want consistent game time.”
Leeds United fans will, of course, remember Dawson well.
The Welsh under-21 international was a highly rated youngster at Thorp Arch when he signed his professional contract in 2012.
He made his original Leeds breakthrough to the first team in 2013, starting in a 2-1 loss against Derby County in April of the same year.
Nonetheless, he struggled with a shoulder injury and other ailments after that period.
He next played for Leeds in November 2014 and after featuring just two more times for the club, he was released in January 2016.
Two days later Dawson headed to Rotherham United, then managed by his former Leeds academy boss Neil Redfearn.
Dawson, however, has had an unlucky career. By the time he had returned to full fitness, Redfearn had been sacked and he never went on to feature for the Millers.
After joining former Leeds coach Ian Burchnall for a loan spell at Norwegian side Viking FK he was released by Rotherham in May of last year.
Since then it has been a tough ride for Dawson.
A behind-closed-doors friendly for Oldham Athletic has been his only 90 minutes in the last year, after suffering a torn ACL.
The knee injury has kept him out of action but now, fully fit, he is hoping to help the Seadogs in their bid for promotion from the Northern Premier League Division One North.
Leeds United fans were always excited about Dawson’s ability. Often praised by his coaches and fans for his performances with the under-23s he looked a first-team prospect.
Technically gifted and dangerous around the box the Welsh talent has all the necessary skills to be a star. The one thing Dawson has not been gifted with is luck.
Hopefully, he can find success with Scarborough. Five years after making his Leeds debut, Dawson is embarking on the latest stage of his career.
No Leeds United fan would begrudge him any future success.
Leo Bonatini wants to stay and Wolves should keep him
The Brazilian has not scored in 18 games, but has earned a permanent Wolves switch.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have a decision to make in the summer regarding striker Leo Bonatini.
The Brazilian is on loan at Molineux from Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal until the end of the season.
According to Birmingham Live, that deal can be made permanent in the summer for a fee of around €5 million (£4.4 million).
“It’s something I still don’t know. I’m on loan here, really, until the end of this season from Al-Hilal. I don’t know what will happen.
“But I know what I want, I want to stay. Here’s a place that I was able to adapt very well to the game style, it’s a game style that I like a lot, the country is a very good country, where I adapted to be able to live.”
In December, this would have been an easy decision to make. The Brazilian had scored 12 goals in 22 games for the club as they romped to a Championship lead.
It was a level of form that had him in contention for the national team.
Since then, things have dropped off. Bonatini has not scored in 2018 and is now 18 games without a goal.
The January loan signing of Benik Afobe has seen him lose his place and the Molineux outfit will no longer be sure that the 23-year-old should be snapped up in the summer.
But, surely Wolves should still push forward with signing the Brazilian striker?
His form recently has been a concern. However, Wolves know what he is capable of when he is firing.
Those 12 goals in 22 games at the start of the season were no fluke and the bullish frontman has plenty of talent.
Furthermore, Wolves can not argue with the price-tag.
For a player of Bonatini’s age and talent, £4.4 million is an absolute bargain when compared to some of the prices in the Championship in recent seasons.
Wolves will need different options up front if they are promoted and new faces will be expected at Molineux.
But Bonatini will have played a pivotal role in taking the club to the top-flight. Having him on the books will be a major plus in the Premier League.
Whilst his form has dipped in recent times, £4.4 million for a 12-goal striker, at just 23 years of age, is a deal that Wolves must snap up.
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