Seldom pretty and occasionally convincing – Nigel Adkins has done it tough in first year at Hull City

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Seldom pretty and occasionally convincing – Nigel Adkins has done it tough in first year at Hull City

The numbers behind Nigel Adkins’ first year as Hull City boss do not immediately make for pleasant reading. Saturday’s 3-2 win at QPR was only his 12th victory from 46 Championship games and a modest return of 50 points is hardly one to win universal acclaim.

Twenty times Adkins has overseen league defeats and for the bulk of his reign as City’s head coach he has led a side occupying one of the bottom six places in the division.

Seldom has it been pretty and results only occasionally convincing, yet judgement of this first term has to go deeper than the cold, hard figures.

Adkins has not done brilliantly since arriving at the KCOM Stadium but he has done well.

Keeping the Tigers afloat last season was by no means a given when he succeeded Leonid Slutksy last December and, for all the troubles of this current campaign, the first anniversary has arrived with things again looking up in the Championship.

Adkins has not been a man for overnight success here in East Yorkshire, not last season or this, but he has shown a habit of getting there in the end.

“I’d like to think we did a really good job last season in making sure the football club was still in the Championship this season,” he said when asked about his impending anniversary last week.

“We’re still in and around that but obviously the team was dismantled in the summer and it’s taken time.

“We can see that there’s a team ethos where everyone is committed. There are challenges, there’s challenges at every football club, but I want to do well for everyone here at Hull City.”

Hull City manager Nigel Adkins instructs his players
Hull City manager Nigel Adkins instructs his players

The “challenges” that Adkins eludes to are the reason he deserves respect for his work of the last 364 days. Just like Mike Phelan and Slutsky before him, City’s current head coach has been unable to count on the support of his employers when it was needed most.

Adkins has kept plugging away without complaint – quite the opposite, in fact – but the reality is that he has been left to work with a squad incapable of delivering his ambitions of returning to the Premier League any time soon. Mid-table would feel like an achievement for the class of 2018-19.

The current standing of 19th, you suspect, is where most would have expected City to be this season. Some might have hoped for higher, others will have feared lower, but the damaging summer window ensured this campaign’s primary objective would always be survival.

Unlike Steve Bruce, who twice counted on the Allam family’s backing to win promotion to the Premier League, Adkins has been left to work with an imbalanced and limited squad.

The departure of 12 senior players in the summer, including Abel Hernandez, Allan McGregor, Michael Dawson, David Meyler and Seb Larsson, decimated the squad Adkins had begun to get a tune out of in the Spring and forced a rebuild on a shoestring.

Nigel Adkins waves to the Hull City fans inside the New York Stadium
Nigel Adkins waves to the Hull City fans inside the New York Stadium

Just six signings were sanctioned before the opening month that brought one win in six games and only when Tommy Elphick and Chris Martin were signed on deadline day did City begin to look as though they might yet survive winter. Little wonder it has been heavy going.

“The wage bill is being cut all the time and sustainability has been the word because we’ve got to make sure the football club is still here for our supporters, especially as the owners are looking to sell the club,” said Adkins.

And that underlines the thankless task he has been left to undertake. Improve on last season with a third of the budget and established squad no longer at your disposal. Better managers than Adkins would also have struggled in these straightened times.

That is not to say Adkins has been perfect. Mistakes have been made and critics collected over the last year. Too many drab and lifeless defeats have been witnessed to ensure Adkins has everyone onside.

Hull City manager Nigel Adkins greets Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez
Hull City manager Nigel Adkins greets Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez

The mind drifts back to those lamentable away trips to Bolton, Sunderland and Birmingham last season. Or the home defeat to Millwall. This season has served up a few horror shows, too, such as the torturous afternoons spent watching City freeze in front of Blackburn and Reading.

Days such as those, alas, are a given with a squad as limited as City’s. The only hope is that they are few and far between and events of the last month would suggest they will happen less frequently between now and May.

Adkins, remarkably, will become the first of the last four City bosses to bring up a year in the job. Phelan, Marco Silva and Slutsky barely even saw that between them.

Can Adkins expect to be toasting another anniversary next December? There are far too many imponderables to attach any degree of certainty to his long-term future as a proposed takeover hangs in the balance and first he must prove he is worthy of a contract extension beyond the end of this season.

City have not delivered enough under Adkins to call his reign a success but the final weeks of his first year in charge, including a timely leap out of the relegation zone, point tentatively towards better times.

Hull City boss Nigel Adkins at the Estadio da Nora, Albufeira
Hull City boss Nigel Adkins at the Estadio da Nora, Albufeira

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