Football Features

This XI of active former Hull City players would be nowhere near League One

By Ben Green

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Published: 10:58, 23 July 2020

Hull City finish the 2019/20 Championship season dead last and suffer relegation to League One for the first time since 2005.

Their fate was effectively sealed by that confidence-sapping 8-0 drubbing at the hands of Wigan last week, a result that has sent shockwaves across the Championship and gave the Latics hope their own chances of surviving an impending 12-point deduction (those were ultimately dashed on the final day).

That result itself now seems somewhat flattering, given Paul Cook’s men were seven goals to the good at half time, but a more convincing second-half display has not deflected the humiliation that has pervaded the KCOM terraces this past week.

The embarrassment was exacerbated by their 1-0 reversal to relegation rivals Luton Town, who leapfrogged them into 22nd last weekend. Relegation was confirmed by a 3-0 loss to promotion-chasing Cardiff City in midweek. To think Hull were competing in the Europa League just five years ago now seems almost unimaginable.

In fact, relegation never really seemed on the table midway through the campaign. But, their fate has seemed preordained since talisman Jarrod Bowen parted for West Ham in January. During his last match for the club, Hull were 13th and some 15 points clear of danger. 

The ensuing nosedive has seen them collect just six points in 16 games and the wooden spoon is now beckoning. However, things haven’t always been this perilous for the Tigers. In recent memory many great players have donned the orange and black.

Here we pay homage to those who have sported the amber jersey, and put together an XI of former Hull players. This lot certainly wouldn’t have found themselves 7-0 down at half-time at the DW Stadium.

Goalkeeper: Peter Gulacsi

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Age: 30
Hull appearances: 15
Current club: RB Leipzig

Liverpool may feel they missed a trick allowing Gulacsi to leave on a free transfer to Red Bull Salzburg in 2013. Adrian’s performances have been far from convincing as an understudy to Alisson this season, while Gulacsi has only been enhancing his burgeoning reputation between the sticks at the Red Bull Arena in Saxony.

During the Hungarian’s five-year spell at Anfield, he had multiple loan spells away from the club to further his education in goal. In 2011/12 he spent the season at Hull and appeared 15 times in the Championship before a goalkeeper crisis on Merseyside forced Kenny Dalglish to recall him earlier than expected.

He never did go on to make an appearance for the Reds in any competition, but he has since excelled for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga — particularly this season as he went on to become the only goalkeeper to assist in the top flight– and will be preparing to take on Atletico Madrid in the Champions League next month.

Right-back: Ahmed Elmohamady

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Age: 32
Hull appearances: 217
Current club: Aston Villa

The Egyptian enjoyed two promotions to the Premier League with Hull, an FA Cup runners-up medal and a Player of the Year award in 2012/13. His buccaneering exploits from right-back and occasionally right-wing were indispensable as the club tussled between divisions and launched an unprecedented campaign in Europe.

Elmohamady started in the 2014 FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal, with Steve Bruce’s side finding themselves 2-0 up 10 minutes into the game, only for the Gunners to fight back and win 3-2. That sparked a Europa League qualification campaign, but it ultimately proved a poisoned chalice as they were knocked out by Lokeren of Belgium and suffered relegation that season.

He subsequently moved to Aston Villa, where he enjoyed his third career promotion and is now battling it out to stay in the Premier League.

Centre-back: Fikayo Tomori

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Age: 22
Hull appearances: 26
Current club: Chelsea

The England international joined Hull on loan during the helter-skelter reign of former Russia manager Leonid Slutsky. The current Rubin Kazan coach only made it to December, but Tomori lasted the campaign and has since spoken of the importance of that rocky stint for his development during those formative years.

“It was a bit of an up-and-down season,” he reflected. “Being really far away from home for the first time, it was a bit of an adjustment at first but it was good and I enjoyed it. It was a good loan for me overall.”

And the KCOM has granted even more success to Tomori in recent times. His winner in the FA Cup victory over Hull for the Blues earlier this season has set them on course for a Wembley appearance against Arsenal in the final.

Centre-back: Harry Maguire

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Age: 27
Hull appearances: 75
Current club: Man Utd

Following three promising years at Sheffield United in League One, Hull signed Maguire in 2014/15, where he spent the majority of the season on loan at Wigan as the Tigers dropped out of the Premier League. The England centre-back helped the club bounce back the following campaign at the first time of asking but was unable to keep them afloat despite his performances culminating in the Fans’ Player of the Year award and the Players’ Player of the Year accolade.

Those glittering reviews caught the eye of Leicester, who promptly took advantage of Hull’s relegation and secured Maguire for just £12m. And last summer, he became world football’s most expensive centre-back at £80m after Manchester United prised him away to Old Trafford, overtaking the £75m fee Liverpool spent on Virgil van Dijk the year prior.

Centre-back: Liam Cooper

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Age: 28
Hull appearances: 17
Current club: Leeds

So there we have it. After 16 long years Leeds are finally back. Much, if not all, of the praise has been aimed at the club’s enigmatic yet methodical tactician Marcelo Bielsa, and with good reason of course. They don’t name a street after you for no reason, or a stadium in the case of Newell’s Old Boys. But, such is Bielsa’s nature, he would wince at the sight of individual praise, instead pointing to collective, and no player has contributed more to Leeds’ shared goal of promotion this season than club captain Liam Cooper.

The hardened centre-back has skippered the Whites all the way to glory and will be donning the armband next season at Anfield, Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge et al. But, Leeds have Hull to thank for their captain’s progression. He started his career in the Hull academy before moving on to Chesterfield in League Two, and eventually, Elland Road.

Left-back: Andrew Robertson

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Age: 26
Hull appearances: 115
Current club: Liverpool

Liverpool’s marauding full-back was announced as a Hull player on the same day as Maguire, with the then 20-year-old relocating to the KCOM from Dundee United in his native Scotland. Hull chief scout, Stan Ternent, later revealed he was actually keeping tabs on Southampton playmaker Stuart Armstrong (then of Dundee) but was captivated by the exploits of Robertson and encouraged the club to move for the defender.

Despite his excellent showings at Hull, his move to Liverpool was met with mixed emotions, with fans pining for a marquee acquisition, and not an unheralded left-back from a recently relegated side. The purchase has since proven a masterstroke by Liverpool’s transfer guru Michael Edwards, though, and the Scottish captain is one of Jurgen Klopp’s most influential players.

Central midfield: Mark Noble

Age: 33
Hull appearances: 5
Current club: West Ham

He has the kind of Pirlo-esque footballing intelligence that could have taken him all over the world (according to Gianfranco Zola, at least). But the West Ham captain is of a rare breed these days. Not often do players make it across an entire career representing just one team, and West Ham’s midfield stalwart looks set to see out his playing days in the claret and blue jersey of his boyhood club.

I’ve always considered his footballing intelligence to be as good as Andrea Pirlo. – Gianfranco Zola, speaking to the Athletic

‘Nobes’ recently reached a considerable milestone for the Hammers, making his 500th appearance in a season-defining 3-1 win over Watford. He is now just five appearances shy of surpassing Sir Geoff Hurst for the club and six from the legendary Vic Watson.

But, before he was guiding his club to a new dawn at the Olympic Stadium, the two-time Hammer of the Year was learning his trade on loan with Hull in 2005/06. Under Peter Taylor he made just six appearances but those hard minutes would have stood him in good stead for the years ahead.

Central midfield: Hatem Ben Arfa

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Age: 33
Hull appearances: 9
Current club: Valladolid

The mercurial midfielder will always be looked upon as one of those players who didn’t quite fulfil his potential despite enjoying some major success at the top level. The mercurial playmaker joined the Tigers on loan from Newcastle for the 2014/15 season to much fanfare, with supporters hoping Bruce could coax the sort of mesmeric performances out of him that he exhibited at St James’ Park from time to time.

But, it just wasn’t to be. His infamous stint last just nine matches and he was out of the door before Christmas with Bruce describing his work ethic as ‘disappointing’. Given goalkeeper Allan McGregor officially covered more ground than him during his last game for the club at Old Trafford in a 3-0 defeat to Man Utd, Bruce certainly wasn’t too far off with his work ethic analysis.

That considered, Ben Arfa went on to rediscover his best form and fired Rennes to a Coupe de France triumph in 2019, which culminated in the super-elite declaring interest and PSG ultimately acquiring his signature in 2016. There can be no denying that, on his day (however rare those are), Ben Arfa is world class.

Right wing: Jarrod Bowen

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Age: 23
Hull appearances: 131
Current club: West Ham

The turning point this season for Hull. Bowen is still the club’s top goalscorer with 16 strikes this term, the next-highest is Kamil Grosicki on six (who also left in January). The incisive winger is also the top assist-provider on seven and the most prolific dribbler with 51 successful take-ons. Oh, and still leads the team he left behind in terms of shots taken, with 103.

The next-highest shot taker presently at the club is Tom Eaves on 55, nearly half the tally amassed by Bowen, who of course hasn’t been at the club for six months. In fairness to Hull, Bowen still sits seventh in the overall Championship scoring charts, highlighting just how influential and brilliant he was in the first half of the campaign.

And he has been just as essential to West Ham for their survival hopes, with the Hereford United graduate providing four assists and a goal since joining David Moyes’ side. For context, he is the second-best creator at the club this campaign with those assists, and looks a real steal already.

Left wing: Robert Snodgrass

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Age: 32
Hull appearances: 56
Current club: West Ham

Sticking with the West Ham theme and Snodgrass, a strong contender for the club’s Hammer of the Year accolade this season, is another to make that successful leap from Hull to east London. The versatile Scottish winger relocated to the London Stadium midway through Hull’s relegated season in 2016/17, but he joined as an impromptu replacement to Dimitri Payet, who got itchy feet in the capital and returned to Marseille.

That naturally placed a seismic pressure on Snodgrass’ shoulders, but he has since proved the doubters wrong after some initial teething issues in the squad and is now one of the club’s most revered members. The Glaswegian had a similar reputation at Hull during a three-year spell between 2014 and 2017, in which time he led the club to promotion in 2016 and established a talismanic role on the flanks.

Striker: Joshua King 

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant

Age: 28
Hull appearances: 19
Current club: Bournemouth

After failing to impress at Borussia Monchengladbach during a season-long loan spell in 2011/12, King returned to parent club Manchester United midway through the campaign and packed his bags for Hull in January 2012. There, he went on to feature in just south of 20 matches and really started to catch the eye.

The Norwegian forward later joined Blackburn from the Red Devils, where his performances attracted interest from a certain Eddie Howe, who signed the versatile attacker in 2015. Since moving to Dean Court, King has gone from strength to strength. United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tried to bring him back to Old Trafford last January, and King can be sure of a move to a leading club this summer if the Cherries fail to beat the drop.

Hull City: Former players from Bielsa's skipper to RB Leipzig assist-merchant


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