Hull City chief Grant McCann will again aim to prove doubters wrong

THROUGHOUT his football career, Grant McCann has made his critics eat their words.

Champion: Hull City manager Grant McCann celebrates with the League One trophy.

For those who may choose to decry Hull City’s Championship prospects in 2021-22, McCann – who clearly has unfinished business at this level – will be driven to prove them wrong.

In his playing days, he upset the odds in leading Peterborough to play-off glory at the expense of Huddersfield Town at Old Trafford at the end of 2010-11 when Terriers fans made up the vast majority of the attendance.

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The Ulsterman was also part of a Scunthorpe side that stunned favourites Millwall in the League One showpiece at Wembley in 2008-09 and a victorious member of the Cheltenham Town line-up which went up to the third tier in 2005-06.

Top Tigers: Keane Lewis-Potter and Callum Elder.

In his managerial life, he has endured some turbulent times, but come out fighting.

A ‘really hard, driven person who wants to be successful’ was how he put it when he took over Doncaster Rovers in the summer of 2018 and someone who can display a tough ‘Belfast aggressive side’ when needs be.

McCann readily admits to being motivated by the pain of his sacking at Peterborough in early 2018 which left him a ‘little bit bitter’ after the Posh hierarchy axed him with the club in 10th place in League One – six points out of the play-off positions but with two games in hand.

He channelled the hurt into taking Doncaster to a top-six finish in 2018-19, while making a mockery of those who suggested that a season of consolidation was in store when he arrived.

Impressive: Malik Wilks.

At Hull, strength has been forged out of adversity and criticism.

After the Tigers’ painful relegation in 2019-20, when they went into freefall in the second half of the season, McCann and his staff and players closed ranks in outstanding fashion to return to the Championship at the first time of asking – no mean feat when the toils of the likes of Sunderland and Ipswich are taken into consideration.

With City likely to be operating with one of the lowest budgets in the second tier in 2021-22, many pundits may well be expecting a season of struggle.

Like before, it will give McCann all the incentive he requires.

He has proven himself in League One and will back himself to do the same in the division above.

Some reinforcements will be sought, but McCann does possess wherewithal and character already among a tight group of players who stuck together after a wretched second-half of 19-20 and delivered a strong and emphatic response.

A video featuring family and friends in a special good luck package ahead of the run-in further strengthened bonds.

Twelve months on from the club’s descent, it was those in Hull jerseys who held their nerve in the business end of last season and not their League One promotion rivals as the Tigers secured the club’s first divisional title since 1965-66 in fitting style.

The bouquets reserved for the likes of Mallik Wilks, Josh Magennis, Callum Elder and George Honeyman were particularly deserving after the events of before.

Both in their mid-twenties, Elder and Honeyman are approaching their peak, while Wilks – a player whom McCann has consistently got the best out of – has come of age under him.

He will be motivated to crack the Championship, with the benefits of a promotion campaign likely to be significant in the career of a young striker with immense promise in Keane-Lewis Potter alongside another home-grown product who bleeds amber and black in Jacob Greaves, the Cottingham-born son of ex-City centre-back Mark.

As has been the case in recent times, the ‘elephant in the room’ regarding the club’s off-the-field situation still pervades.

Ongoing speculation regarding the ownership of the club continues to do the rounds, with the latest name linked with a takeover being Turkish entrepreneur and media mogul Acun Ilicali.

For McCann, the backdrop of rumours is nothing new and par for the course.

Speaking recently, the 41-year-old commented: “Personally, I don’t get involved in that.

“My job is to look after the football team and make sure we’re strong on the pitch and making sure the staff are good, that everything around the training ground is fine.

“That side of it is probably a question for the owners, not me.

“All we’re doing at the minute is working very hard behind the scenes. The recruitment team and the owners can give us a squad that the fans can be proud of just like they were last season and we can go into this campaign with them back in the stadium, hopefully, and seeing this young team grow. That is what we are looking forward to.”

With Reece Burke tipped to move away from East Yorkshire to Luton Town, bringing in another established central defensive option will be high on the to-do list for McCann, linked with Gillingham defender Jack Tucker, among others.

Shrewd signings arrived last summer in the likes of Lewie Coyle, Greg Docherty and Alfie Jones and the club’s past two windows have been remarkably serene in comparison to events before as McCann seeks to add quality to a squad which has talent and togetherness.

If outside observers persist in knocking Hull, their head coach will not be losing any sleep but he will be quietly set upon doing something about it.

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