CHRISTMAS may be a time for giving, but for several Yorkshire managers a big priority remains holding on to what they already have.
For Hull City head coach Mike Phelan, this means retaining Robert Snodgrass amid strong interest from a host of clubs that include Middlesbrough and West Bromwich Albion.
That desire received a lift yesterday when the Tigers confirmed that Snodgrass was one of six first-team players to have an option in his contract triggered that, in theory, keeps him at the KCOM until the summer of 2018.
Jake Livermore, Michael Dawson, Harry Maguire, Andrew Robertson and Abel Hernandez were the others whose existing deals the club chose to extend but it is Snodgrass who is surely most integral to Hull’s hopes of surviving in the Premier League this season.
“Robert is in the same vein as he has always been,” said Phelan when asked about the Scot’s importance to the East Riding club.
“He has performed very, very well considering at one point his career was on the backburner.
“He had an injury that put question marks over whether he would recover.
“He has performed really well. He is a plus and an asset. Any football club should be looking to keep their assets and he is one of them. He is an important cog in the system. He has scored goals, he has played in a couple of positions and he is enjoying it.”
Hull’s hand when it comes to Snodgrass has undoubtedly been strengthened by the triggering of the extension as it now means he cannot leave on a free transfer next summer.
Nevertheless, Boro and several other suitors remain keen.
Asked if there was any prospect of Snodgrass leaving when the window reopens in January, Phelan replied: “I would like to think not.
“He is under contract, so unless someone comes in with a huge amount of money – which it would take to deliver him somewhere else – he is a Hull City player.”
Also looking to retain existing key personnel is Leeds United’s Garry Monk. Pontus Jansson and Kyle Bartley are both on loan at Elland Road, while Charlie Taylor having just six months left on his contract makes Leeds vulnerable to bids for the left-back.
“We can’t and we won’t be losing any of our players,” said Monk, who has been linked with a move for David Nugent in the January window. “We need to add, not take away.
“Everyone here is fully committed to what we are doing and I am very happy with the squad.”
Leeds are one of three Yorkshire sides sitting in the Championship play-off spots ahead of the festive season. Huddersfield Town, the surprise package of this term, lead the way in fourth place and supporters have already had the Christmas present they craved when David Wagner rebuffed interest from Wolfsburg to remain at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Town will be watched by their largest home Boxing Day crowd since leaving their old Leeds Road home in 1994 when Nottingham Forest are the visitors.
For many in the Terriers squad, this will be their first experience of playing at this time of year but Wagner has no concerns for his foreign legion.
“Personally, I would like to have a winter break and spend Christmas with my family,” said the German.
“But if you make the decision to work in English football, you have to be ready.
“I know after last season that if you win football matches over Christmas then it becomes enjoyable. That is our target, to be successful.
“For this, we have to perform. That is our focus. Boxing Day football is a very big thing in Germany, people talk about the English tradition. Now, many of my players get a chance to enjoy it.”
Perhaps the game of Boxing Day in the Football League is Sheffield Wednesday’s trip to leaders Newcastle United.
The Owls have won four of their last five games to move up to sixth in the table ahead of a return to a stadium where Carlos Carvalhal’s side triumphed last year in the League Cup.
“I have never faced Rafael Benitez before so it will be a pleasure to meet him,” said the Portuguese. “He showed courage (by staying last summer after relegation) and it was something I appreciate.
“Even though he is a coach with a big CV, he accepted the challenge and I like these kind of people who aren’t afraid to take on challenges.
“They are in first place because they are fighting, scoring goals and deserve to be there.”