MOHAMED DIAME’S place in Hull City folklore is assured thanks to last May’s spectacular winner at Wembley and manager Mike Phelan insists the Newcastle midfielder deserves a good reception tonight on his first return to the Yorkshire club.
The Senegal international left the KCOM Stadium during the summer after a £4.5m buy-out clause in his contract was triggered by Newcastle.
It meant Diame’s last act in a Tigers shirt was to settle the Championship play-off final against Sheffield Wednesday with the stunning strike that booked a return to the top flight.
“He should get a good reception,” said Phelan ahead of tonight’s League Cup quarter-final against the Magpies. “He put some service in here. He had his ups and downs with injuries when he was here, but I think, most of the time, he proved to be a very good player.
“Mo has taken those skills to Newcastle and he is obviously doing something right because he is helping them to be top of the league.”
Diame spent a little under two years at Hull and his departure was one of several low points for the club during a troubled summer. It came amid uncertainty over a possible takeover and struggles in the transfer market that became so acute that the first signing of the window was not made until the penultimate day of August.
Phelan, caretaker manager at the time of Diame’s exit, added: “When a player expresses a desire to move on and he has that option, you have to wait and see.
“You try and talk and try to persuade, but, really, it is not an option that is in your favour.
“He wanted to go to a club like Newcastle and he took that option.”
Asked if Hull would be a better team if Diame was still at the KCOM, Phelan replied: “You look at Mo and you look at his history and how he goes about his work, you look at the size of the guy and his physique, that always helps.
“You look at footballers now, teams like West Brom, they are physically capable. They are strong and powerful. Mo Diame has all those attributes in his armoury. You try and keep your best players, but we couldn’t do that. It is history now.”
Diame’s stint in amber and black may well be in the past, but the troubles that dogged Hull during the summer are still very much alive.
Such is the antipathy towards the club’s owners among supporters that a crowd of just 13,000 is expected tonight for what is just Hull’s second appearance in the League Cup quarter-finals.
Considering ticket prices were slashed to as little as £9, the swathes of empty seats will be a damning indictment as to where the Tigers are at right now.
For Phelan, however, the focus is what happens on the pitch as Hull look to reach the last four for the first time in the club’s history.
“The team that plays will be strong,” said the Tigers’ chief, who is without Ryan Mason due to illness.
“We have got three or four players who need to play minutes going into December so we will be using them. But we should be in reasonably good shape and strong.”
Medals are what count, says Phelan: Page 18