If you’re a regular reader of the blog you’ll know I’m not the greatest fan of much of the media coverage of the club. Some pockets have improved in the last year or so, namely Mr B Cooper, who at the very least shows genuine passion and interest in what he does. However, I’d say my dislike of sports coverage isn’t just restricted to Hull City based media. I find the BBC coverage of football tepid at times and rarely thought provoking and I’m not one for reading sports coverage in the papers or listening to (god forbid) the radio. It’s all very cliched for me, obsessed with the “big six clubs”, it pays lip service to the stronghold of the other 72 clubs despite it being a much bigger potential audience than other areas it seems to love.
Now American sports coverage, that’s a bit different. Maybe I have more distance from it, but ESPN and their coverage has much more bite, it’s more opinionated, fresher and is prepared to be a little more challenging to the reader. There’s several podcasts and writers I’d draw your attention to, but I realise that the NFL, NBA or college sports isn’t what brought you here, however, it’s their ideas that got me thinking. This year the day after the NFL draft ESPN will do the “Far too early 2023 draft” predictions. They love speculating and almost have fun at the thought of being wrong. Imagine the BBC setting out what would be the 1-20 in the Premier League in 2023?! No chance, they don’t even know the teams for certain, nope, that would blow their little minds.
With that in mind I thought I’d borrow this concept and do the “Far to early player of the year awards”. Now I’m not being that brave as we are 28 of 46 games in, however things can change pretty quickly at this level and especially at this club. As you dear reader know oh so well. with that in mind, here’s my top five for player of the year at this very early stage and why.
5. Ryan Longman/Keane Lewis Potter
Well, isn’t this fine fence sitting to start the top five on with? Yes, it is lovely reader (send your hate tweets to @thelikesofhull) but their seasons have very much mirrored each other’s. A less than glorious start (bar KLP’s first day masterclass) and a period where both looked both out of sorts and a bit lost at this level. Keane was at least getting playing time, whereas injury and illness kept Ryan out of the team altogether. It was also the same position and a change of formation that seemed to rejuvenate them, in the wing back position of a 3-5-2 both men suddenly found time, space and the ability to run at defenders. Neither is afraid to dig in and help the defence, and so we’ve seen both players become pivotal parts of the counter attacking culture we are currently getting joy from. There’s goals and assists in the pair of them. Long may it last.
4. Richie Smallwood
File under unsung hero. He’s very much the Ian Ashbee of this team. He’s not flashy, he’s not a headline maker but he really does enable us to get on the front foot and play with freedom when we are on top and solidify the formation when we are on the back foot. Also, like Ashbee he’s been written off and it’s been presumed he wouldn’t cut it at this level. This often seems to be because the “Bin man faced assassin” Tony Mowbray cast him aside after Blackburn went to the second level. Well, it turns out that Tony not only has a face like a hungover docker who’s overdosed on Botox for a dare, but he’s not always right about football too. I dare say Richie is a very vocal member of the changing room and leads by example. He’s not the quickest but he makes us very difficult to counter against. He’s played better at a higher level, and that’s a very good sign.
3. Nathan Baxter
When Matt Ingram was dropped for the Barnsley away game it felt like Grant McCann had finally lost his last marble. He was possibly the only player in the run up that had done himself justice. However, the enigmatic Ulsterman got it right, and most of us were wrong. Baxter has been immense every since and brings a confidence to the role that you rarely see in someone so young. One on one he’s aggressive and controlled, he’s proactive from crosses and corners, vocal and his distribution is non-too shabby. He also has a bit of an “it” factor, he’s cocky (see him drinking from the bottle thrown at him by Birmingham fans) and confidence from your keeper is infectious. Most City fans would snap your hand off to sign him permanently. Myself included.
2. Sean McLoughlin
I do love it when a player doesn’t get it handed to them on a plate. It’s character building and if they finally get a break, they rarely look back. This has been exactly the case with the young man from Cork. He was loaned out to St Mirren, then was nowhere near first choice but when he finally got the chance, there’s just no replacing him. He’s got pace covering him in Greaves and Bernard but he’s been dominant, he’s so so consistent and I honestly don’t think he’s had a bad game. I said on Twitter this week he’s Peter Skipper like and all readers of a certain age will know compliments don’t come much bigger than that. Just like the legend Mr. Skipper, it’s not about him, it’s about the team and the performance. Although I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised to see him get a cap for Ireland soon, nothing about SM says big time. Apart from the performances on the pitch.
1. George Honeyman
I ummed and ahhed about who was one and who was two. You could have reversed the places and I wouldn’t have been upset, however going back in time to the Barnsley game and it was the first time we’d seen a fit and ready GH fire, well, we haven’t looked back. The form since is top ten in the league and most everything we’ve got right includes the Honeymonster. I love this man so much. He’s a grafter, he’s a shithouse, he’s creator, he’s a scorer. (I’m now singing these last four statements to “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks) The work he puts in is endless, and in the middle of scrapping and winning the ball he becomes prime Chris Waddle and puts a pass on a sixpence to pick out a City player who scores (see the second vs. Swansea). It was great to see someone as talented as Longman coming in on a permanent deal this week. The last two on this list need wrapping up in new contract ASAP. Because you absolutely don’t want to give anyone in this league George Honeyman. He’s absolute class.
As ever I’ll be interested to know your thoughts, was anyone left out unfairly? (I did consider Doch, Greaves and more recently Eaves) or is there anyone who might play themselves into the top five in the remaining games?