It has been a topsy-turvy start to the campaign for Hull City, who have managed 6 wins, 4 draws and 6 losses from 16 Championship outings so far.
The Tigers had been reeling in the bottom half of the table after accumulating only a single victory from their first seven league fixtures but three consecutive victories over Nottingham Forest, Derby County and Fulham triggered by a sudden upturn in form in October have brought the East Yorkshire outfit back in the playoff race.
A narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of West Brom heading into the international break somewhat disrupted the momentum, but there seems to be a belief among the fans at the KCOM Stadium that the team is gradually beginning to respond to Grant McCann’s philosophy.
Just a few points adrift of the playoff spots with almost two-thirds of the campaign still yet to unfold, Hull City might not be one of the favourites to secure a playoff spot but as unpredictable as the Championship can sometimes be, a consistent run of positive results could possibly trigger an unlikely surge for promotion.
McCann, though, might have to dip into the transfer market during the mid-season trading period in January to make necessary adjustments to his squad.
A tally of 23 goals scored and 21 conceded in 16 games suggests that the Tigers have done decently at both ends of the pitch but there is always room for improvement if they are to stamp their authority as genuine promotion contenders.
However, besides selling and buying players, McCann might have a few other decisions to make in January, especially on the future of some players who look set for an exit from the KCOM Stadium.
Of course, the saga involving Markus Henriksen has turned into a bit of an unwanted distraction for the club and that is something the manager must look to sort out at the earliest.
Furthermore, a contract renewal drive is also the need of the hour, with the likes of Will Mannion, Stephen Kingsley, Robbie McKenzie, Brandon Fleming, Eric Lichaj, Jackson Irvine, Jon Toral, Kevin Stewart, Daniel Batty, Kamil Grosicki and Jarrod Bowen all out of contract at the end of the ongoing campaign next summer.
To that end, McCann also needs to make a call on the future of Everton loanee Matthew Pennington, who has found himself lost in the cold ever since his temporary switch from Goodison Park on deadline day.
With brief Premier League experience at Everton, as well as a wealth of Football League experience acquired over loan spells at Leeds United, Ipswich Town, Coventry City, Tranmere Rovers and Wallsall, Hull City seemed to have bagged quite a coup when they secured the services of Matthew Pennington in the summer.
The move definitely made a lot of sense for the Tigers, at least on paper, given that they needed a bit more cover at the back prior to the start of the campaign, and Pennington’s previous experience in the Championship with Leeds and Ipswich made him a solid temporary fix.
Unfortunately, though, things have gone horribly wrong for the 25-year-old Warrington-born defender, with Pennington restricted to only 17 minutes of football in the Championship so far.
With the centre-back pairing of Reece Burke and Jordy de Wijs flourishing to a considerable extent and veteran Eric Lichaj a regular fixture at right-back, Pennington has hardly got a look in from Grant McCann despite his versatility to operate both as a centre-back and as a right-back.
Moreover, when the manager has opted to rotate his squad, the likes of Ryan Tafazoli and Robbie McKenzie have been given the nod ahead of Pennington, which is a clear indication of the fact that he is way down the pecking order at the KCOM Stadium.
With that in mind, the Tigers already seem to have enough options in central defence to cope with an injury to either of their first-choice centre-backs and that is exactly why it doesn’t make sense for them to pay Matthew Pennington the wages for simply warming the benches and doing next to nothing.
All in all, sending him back to Everton would certainly reduce the club’s wage bill and free up some valuable funds, which, in turn, would facilitate a contract renewal drive.
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