MANAGER Steve Bruce last night revealed any additions made by Hull City in the transfer window are likely to be loans.
The Tigers travel to Queens Park Rangers today looking to steal a march on top two Middlesbrough and Derby County, who meet tomorrow at the Riverside.
To put any pressure on the leading duo, Hull will have to improve hugely on a trio of wretched performances on the road in December.
Defeats to Leeds United, Rotherham United and Preston North End led, as Bruce readily admits, to a bout of “head-scratching” at the KC Stadium.
Any hopes, however, that the January window could follow those of the past two years and see Hull splash the cash are likely to be dashed.
Bruce said: “I would love to go and strengthen us in certain areas, every manager would. But I don’t think the funds are available. That is fair enough after what we have done in the last couple of years.
“If there is someone we can take on loan then I will try and act. The priority is that we don’t want to lose any of our players, but if there is someone out there who can improve us then we will have a look at it.
“The beauty of the Championship is that you can get a loan to help you in the short-term. That is the area I will be looking at if I can.
“I would like someone who is proven, but that market is very, very difficult. We would all like a leader with experience, but where do you get them? I think we are fine when we have got everyone back fit.”
Abel Hernandez may have recently become the first player to reach double figures for the season since Bruce arrived at the KC Stadium three and a half years ago, but there remain concerns about the depth of goalscoring talent at the club.
Chuba Akpom, on loan from Arsenal, has just three league goals to his name, while Adama Diomande – a £1.7m signing from Norwegian club Stabaek last August – has managed just three brief cameos from the bench following surgery.
With this in mind, a striker is likely to be on Bruce’s wishlist with the return of Isaac Hayden to Arsenal after today’s trip to Loftus Road meaning the midfielder’s wages can be redeployed on a possible new face.
“If a striker became available we would be interested because the more of them you have the better,” said the Hull manager, who spent £3m on Dame N’Doye in January last year and £13m on duo Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long in the 2014 winter window.
“We will be trying and if there is someone out there who can improve us then I will act.
“As for the other areas, Isaac’s return to Arsenal maybe leaves us a bit short in midfield, but everywhere else is okay.”
As welcome as a new face would be this month, Bruce’s priority remains keeping his squad together.
Last year’s relegation, together with the wage cuts that followed make Hull vulnerable to interest from Premier League clubs.
The presence of buyouts in many contracts means, as happened with Tom Ince last summer when the wideman joined Derby for £4.75m, Hull will be able to do little to fend off rival suitors if a player wants to move.
No bids have come in as yet ahead of the window officially opening at midnight, but Tom Huddlestone, Michael Dawson and Ahmed Elmohamady continue to be linked with a possible transfer back to the top flight.
“All these different things swirl around, but my phone has been very quiet and I hope it stays that way,” replied Bruce when asked about any possible offers having come in. “I know agents are trawling around some of our players. That happens and I can’t stop it.
“The key for us is hanging on to what we’ve got and I’ll do my utmost to make sure all of them stay.”
Asked if he would be tempted to cash in on a player if the sale released funds to bring a replacement in during the coming month, the Tigers’ chief replied: “Not really.
“If needed, I would do that but it is a very difficult game because there is not anyone out there now who I think is available who can come and improve us. You are very, very limited in January.”
Hull’s trio of away losses in December have allowed Derby and Boro to open up a useful gap in the race for automatic promotion, but Bruce remains confident his side can prevail.
“I know how difficult it is,” he added. “You only have to look at who we are playing (today). QPR have changed manager and they are down in 15th. It shows you how hard it is to come down from the Premier League sometimes. Teams like Wolves, Wigan, Fulham have all struggled.
“We are on the right track. At the halfway stage we are there or thereabouts and I still believe we can improve.
“If we can keep our home form as it is and improve our away form then we have got an outstanding chance.”
Match preview: Page 20.