2013/14 EPL season preview: Hull City

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    Hull City midfieler Robert Koren will be key this season.

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    Hull City are back in the top flight, and will be tested from the outset with opening matches against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and Manchester City in Manchester.

    What happened last season
    In May 2012 there was the final day Manchester madness, as City pinched the title from United’s nose in the final seconds of the season.

    In May 2013, there were similar scenes in the Championship, as Hull City’s promotion to the Premier League went right down to the wire.

    Hull were dramatically promoted to the top flight after their cross-town rivals Leeds United upset Watford in the final match, giving the Yorkshire club a Steven Bradbury-style ride into the Premier League.

    Scenes from their raucous celebrations were soon watched around the globe, and Egyptian defender Ahmed Elmohamady’s peculiar promotion dance became etched in Hull City folklore.

    While manager Steve Bruce has Hull City playing a relatively attractive brand of football, last season the Tigers have been plagued by goal-shyness.

    Commentators have questioned Bruce’s man-management of strikers in the past, although lengthy injury spells to Sone Aluko and Matty Fryatt last season forced him to do without.

    That he managed to push Hull up the ladder despite having one of the worst goal scoring records in the competition remains a credit to Bruce’s adaptability.

    What happened in the off-season
    Already, much has been made of the fact that local businessman turned club owner Assem Allam will stand to lose several million pounds in City’s return to the Premier League.

    The wage bill for players, and the cost of signing new talent outweighs the financial windfall that Hull stand to receive.

    Allam has recently made headlines for his audacious bid to change the club’s name to Hull City Tigers, doing away with the ‘AFC’ which Allam considers too ‘common’ for his club.

    Apparently this will improve the marketability of the Yorkshire based club, but his disregard for the club’s history has been unpopular among fans.

    Allam might not want to be ‘common’, but Tigers fans know that the team will need more than a name change to really mix it with the likes of Chelsea and the Manchester clubs.

    On the field, there are high hopes that new striker Yannick Sagbo and former Swansea centre forward Danny Graham will complement the attacking threats posed by Ahmed Elmohamady and last season’s top scorer Robert Koren.

    Neither Sagbo or Graham are prolific goal scorers, however with Sagbo linking up well with Sone Aluko in pre-season, there might be a little more bite to the Tigers attack this campaign.

    Why fans should be excited about the 2013/14 season
    As Tigers fans know all too well, promotion to the Premier League is often just a fleeting glimpse of the big time.

    After a fairytale run to the Premier League in 2007, they spent a couple of seasons backsliding down to the Championship, bedevilled by managerial and board instability.

    Indeed, this season presents an exciting test for Steve Bruce, who is known more as a promotion specialist and a managerial nomad than for his consistency and longevity.

    During his reign at Birmingham, he oversaw their promotion, relegation and re-promotion to the Premier League, before returning to former club Wigan.

    He then left Wigan after a string of unspectacular results to join Sunderland, where he similarly failed to achieve any great success.

    This season is the chance for the former Manchester United centre-back to cement his role as a Premier League manager.

    The main man that can carry 2013/14 hopes

    Ahmed Elmohamady might be a fan favourite and Yannick Sagbo comes with big wraps, but Steve Bruce will rely on the experience of Robert Koren this season.

    Like Bruce, Koren knows his way around the Premier League after several season with West Brom, and the reliable central midfielder will be expected to lead Hull City in this campaign.

    Verdict
    The cold-hearted reality of life in the top flight means that Hull won’t be breaking any records this season. Still, the Tigers faithful will hope they can at least ride the wave of last season’s glory to avoid relegation.

    They’ll battle hard to stay up, but mid-table would be an achievement.