Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Ten of the best

These are the ten best players signed by Phil Brown during his three and a half years at the helm of Hull City. They are in order of impact and success, not necessarily on out-and-out ability...

1 - Dean Windass
It says a lot when Brown's most successful signing was one who earned Premier League status for the club rather than one who contributed to it in any tangible way once it had been achieved. Already with goodwill on his side from being the best footballer in Tigers colours through the bleak 1990s, Windass returned in January 2007, scored the requisite goals to keep City in the Championship, and then carried on his stirring form up to and including his immortal volley at Wembley. His lack of class off the pitch and ability on it once in the top flight does little to nullify his effect. Brown's decision to sign him was shrewd; his decision to jettison him once the Wembley champagne had flattened was shrewder.

2 - Fraizer Campbell
It would be easy to declare Campbell ineligible for such a rundown, given that he was never actually ours. But his acquisition on loan from Manchester United proved to be the final, key component of Brown's team for the top, and we had never seen a player who could combine sheer pace and elegant touch with such prowess in front of goal. Oddly, like Windass, perhaps Campbell suffered for promotion as he went back to Old Trafford with his reputation enhanced, then went on loan to Tottenham Hotspur, and finally joined Sunderland, and had patently failed to have any effect as a Premier League player at any. City's almost obsequious efforts to court him - twice, without luck - may have turned out right for the Tigers after all, and Campbell's own part in keeping the Tigers guessing while waiting for a "bigger name" to snap him up tarnishes his rating with the fans considerably. But he was still a cracking player to have.

3 - Geovanni
As much of an individual as impishly brilliant Brazilians tend to be, Geovanni was a stunning bit of business by Brown as the squad was reshaped for the Premier League adventure. His touch and vision are exemplary but it is his capacity for the unexpected that has elevated him to heroic status within the Tiger Nation, and his goal at Arsenal will, quite simply, never be bettered when combining technical skill with a sense of the occasion. Injury troubles and a worthy attempt to prove more of a team player have calmed down his flamboyance of late, which has been as handy as it has been harmful, and there is hopefully a good deal more from him to come.

4 - Stephen Hunt
Only three quarters of a season at the club and Hunt has already established himself as a first-rate performer. His skill down the left flank is further enhanced by an amusing and very watchable lack of respect for any opponent at all, and his capacity to irritate adversaries has earned him one of those "love to hate" statuses with other sets of fans, aside from the Tiger Nation that exclusively loves him and the Chelsea contingent that solely hates him. He is also very good in front of goal, which has proved particularly useful this season. Easily Brown's best bit of business last summer.

5 - Wayne Brown
The manager, thinking about a plan for promotion, targeted and got an unrelated namesake at Colchester United as the right man to become the experienced, fearless leader at the back that City needed. He was an outstanding, unfussy defender and that we didn't need him once promotion was established a year later was neither here nor there, and the player himself would probably agree. He did the job he was brought in for, did it superbly, picked up his medal and left.

6 - Marlon King
A thousand reservations exist about including the discredited King, but his three months on loan at the start of the Premier League adventure gave us a striker who could both hold the ball up brilliantly and get into goalscoring positions. We didn't have that again for more than a year.

7 - Richard Garcia
A bit-part player of late, though his natural ability on the right flank maintains plenty of supporters, but it's worth remembering just how good Garcia sometimes looked during the promotion season. Able to beat full backs with brains rather than pace, he crossed the ball with accuracy and proved to be an able finisher too, both from close range and distance. His current status as a selfless team player offers numerous clues as to why he has become a notable survivor in recent harder times.

8 - Jimmy Bullard
Too obvious as far as the most gifted player signed by Brown is concerned, and would be so much higher if, clearly, he'd ever been fit for a reasonable period. The half a dozen games he played in the autumn after finally shaking off his knee trouble were some of the most inspiring performances recallable by the Tiger Nation in many years. Now that he's fit again, he could easily be pushing Windass on the list if he continues in his current manner and City stay up.

9 - Kamil Zayatte
As mad as a window when the mood takes, but in the Guinean defender, Brown signed a player who could play football as well as defend like a trojan. He settled in at the end of August 2008 as if he had been around for years, and only the odd injury lay-off has seen his progress falter, despite the odd daft agent-placed rumour of his supposed desire to move on. A brilliant tackler, willing worker and handy going up for set-pieces, the occasional defensive howler has been all that has blotted Zayatte's copybook, and his absence through his new injury will be harshly felt.

10 - Caleb Folan
Scrapes in despite the historic £1 million fee, as since promotion he has contributed almost entirely nothing to the cause except complaining, posing and being caught offside. There remains doubt about whether he was ever worth the money as it took him until December 2008 - four months after joining - before he scored his first goal (albeit the fractured skull on his debut didn't help) but later there were crucial strikes against Stoke, Coventry, Leicester, Colchester and especially a fine winner at West Bromwich Albion which contributed greatly to the promotion effort, and it was his goal that saw off Watford for good in the play-off semi-finals. A good signing for his sense of occasion rather than anything else, as proved by his winning goal against Fulham in City's first ever Premier League match. In the 19 months since that day, he hasn't scored again and remains on the books as an inadequate but harmless bit of nostalgia for the club's rise to the top.